Monday, September 24, 2018

Go to My Grave

Donna Weaver and her mother had invested heavily in turning The Breakers into a luxurious bed and breakfast along the coast. When their first guest arrive for the weekend, they all have a sense of deja vu. In Go to My Grave by Catriona McPherson, the tension never leaves this book. (Go to the Grave will be published by St. Martin's Press on October 23.)

As the couples and cousins arrive at The Breakers, their sense of having been here before begins to worry them. This is supposed to be a 10th anniversary celebration for Sasha and his wife Kim, but the recognition of the old house leaves them all a bit uneasy.  Is someone planning something sinister and who brought them here?

Long ago Sasha celebrated his 16th birthday here and his cousin Peach remembers beginning her life of alcoholism. What else do they remember? They remember two local girls being invited to the party, but no one recalls what happened to them.

After the cousins trashed the house during the birthday party, Sasha’s parents hustled the children out of the spotlight. And as for the kids themselves? They made three vows of silence – “lock it in a box, stitch my lips and go to my grave”.

Has someone engineered this weekend seeking revenge or is it a harmless coincidence? McPherson will keep you guessing throughout the book. This is the first Catriona McPherson book I have read, but it will not be my last.

A spine-tingling mystery.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Special Delivery

Christmas came early to my house as these holiday-themed books arrived from Kensington Publishing thanks to Santa's elf Larissa Ackerman. The books include Premediated Peppermint by Amanda Flower, an Amish Candy Shop Mystery; Bells, Spells and Murders by Carol J. Perry, a Witch City Mystery; Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke, A Hannah Swensen Holiday Mystery; The Peppermint Mocha Murder, by Collette London, a Chocolate Whisperer Mystery; Murder in her Stocking by G.A. McKevett, a Granny Reid Mystery.

Watch for reviews in the coming weeks. Very excited to begin reading although I'm happy with the current warm weather we are having and not looking forward to snowy, winter days.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Bearly Departed

Hand sewn, made in America teddy bears have been Sasha Silverman life for several years. When the sales rep for Silver Bear Shop and Factory announces that he plans to ship the manufacturing overseas, Sasha says, "Over my dead body." In Bearly Departed by Meg Macy, it's not Sasha's dead body, but Will Taylor's.

Running the Silver Bear Shop and Factory with her sister Maddie and her uncle Ross, Sasha believes in enabling community groups to tour the factory, but she and Will have been bickering about it for years. When he announces he already spoke with her father about moving the production overseas, Sasha tries in vein to contact her parents. Leaving message after message on their phone, she starts to be concerned about them as well as the factory.

Adding to the drama, at the staff meeting her uncle and Will get into
a knock down drag out shouting match. Ross accuses Will of selling the pattern for their bears to a competitor and trying to get rid of him. One of the woman who sews the bears also threatens him.

When Sasha finds Will dead in their shop, she worries her uncle or employee will be charged with murder. She knows Will isn't the most popular person in town and has been known to cheat on his possessive wife, but who would murder him?

Still unable to reach her parents, she starts asking questions about Will and discovers some incriminating evidence. The Silver Bear Shop and Factory is an adorable place and making teddy bears is so sweet. My one concern about the book is the numerous extraneous characters named, but not really incorporated into the plot of the story, otherwise it is an exciting mystery.

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Interview with Melinda Mullet

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published? 
My latest book is called Deadly Dram. It will be available on September 4. Deadly Dram is the third book in the Whisky Business series and also my third published book. I am currently working on book four in the series, Died in the Wool, and I am also writing a separate historical mystery set in pre-WWII England. (A review of Deadly Dram can be found here.)

How did you develop your character and choose your location? 
Well, my father was Scottish and a lover of single malt whiskies so my attraction comes naturally I suppose. At one point while touring a distillery in Scotland with my husband, I looked into the huge wooden vat that holds the barley water as it ferments and it occurred to me, as these things do to mystery lovers, that it would be a great place to find a body. My protagonist Abi Logan really came along after. She’s a journalist and gifted photographer. She has a strong instinct about people and a compulsive attention to detail that serves her well as a sleuth. I also felt it was important for her to have had some experience in a male dominated profession before coming to Scotland. Until recently whisky making in Scotland was very much a male dominated profession in large part because of the prevailing wisdom that women don’t like whisky. Now there are so many women enjoying Scottish whisky and as a result more and more women are staking out their place in the industry. Abi is a tribute to all the women blazing trails in the distilling world.

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 try to write every day, although it doesn’t always happen. (Two kids, a dog and a 90-year-old mother can throw a monkey wrench into the best laid plans on any give day.) I tend to write in the morning, but if I’m on a roll I’ll write anytime. Of course, there’s nothing like a deadline to get the juices flowing. When I’m getting to that point I will often set a goal of a certain number of pages per day. At the moment I’m striving for ten to fifteen pages a day. Practically speaking, I do my research first then I spend quite a bit of time outlining the story and blocking out scenes on index cards. After that I’ll move through a first draft and start editing for flow and continuity. From there it’s a matter of polishing the prose and tightening the language.

Do you belong to a writers group or are you in touch with other writers? How does that help your writing? 
 I do not belong to a writers group that reads each other’s works in progress. I think that would be lovely, but I barely have time for my own work let alone giving adequate attention to someone else’s. I am an active member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Writing is a very isolating profession and it is really nice to have the companionship of a group of people who share the ups and downs of the creative process. They are also very supportive when you sell new books and sympathetic when you are struggling with the publication process.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know? 
Not consciously, but I know that there are bits and pieces of people I know well scattered into the soup that makes up each of my characters. I do name incidental characters after friends just to see if they are paying attention.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character? 
Rosamund Pike. I loved her in Beirut. She was just the kind of journalist I would imagine Abi Logan being.

Who is your favorite author? 
Wow. That’s a tough one. It changes on any given day, but in the mystery genre Dame Agatha is still the queen even after all these years, but I’m also a big fan of Elizabeth George and Colin Dexter. On the contemporary side I love Louise Penny, Dan Brown and Ann Cleeves.

How do you keep track of character details from book to book so they are consistent? 
I keep a file with general character profiles and then I add relevant quotes from each book as I’m doing the final edits. I’ll a moment to skim through the notes before I beginning writing that particular character just to get myself in the right head space.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?  
I’d love to be an illustrator. Anything that would allow me draw and be creative.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Murder at Archly Manor

Olive Belgrave is looking for a job, but investigating a murder isn't what she had in mind. Her socialite cousin Gwen asks her to come to her home to help her with her sister Violet. In Murder at Archly Manor by Sara Rosett it seems Violet has gotten herself engaged to a young man no one really knows.

Her family wants to know more about Alfred Eton, but he is cunningly oblique about his past. He claims his father was a civil servant in India and his parents were killed in a ferry accident. Society photograph and all around part animal Sebastian Blakely is his godfather, but as for any other information, he has been cagey.

Olive's aunt hires her to investigate Alfred's background, but he is very tight-lipped about his past. When she asks him questions he is very vague, which frustrates Olive. She recruits the assistance of her old friend Jasper to see what he can find out through his connections.

When Olive and her cousins are invited to a weekend party at Sebastian's estate Archly Manor, Olive eagerly accepts with hope of learning more about Alfred. But once at the Manor, a murder occurs and Olive is forced to defend her cousin Violet.

Murder at Archly Manor is the first in the High Society Lady Detective series. Looking forward to more.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

168 Days Until Mardi Gras

If you have read Ellen Byron's newest book Mardi Gras Murder, you know Mardi Gras means different things to different areas of Louisiana. To give you an idea what Mardi Gras means in New Orleans, Ellen Byron relates her experience at the Mardi Gras balls and MapYourMystery tells you about riding a float during the Morpheus parade  in 2018.

MapYourMystery: Tell us about your experience at a Mardi Gras ball.
Ellen: One of best friends was queen of Proteus and a maid at Rex, so I got to go to the balls.

MapYourMystery: What type of dresses did you wear?
Ellen: Here’s the thing about Mardi Gras balls, at least back in the day when I went to them, a day that will not be named due to aging me. You dress in formal attire – see photo of my roommate and me – whether you get a “call-out card” or not.

MYM: What’s a call-out card? 
Ellen: That’s when a krewe member on the ballroom floor sends you a card inviting you to join him to dance. One friend of mine who was quite a sexy little number, got a call-out card. So yes, there was dancing, but not for me or my other friends. Dressed in our finery, we watched the court’s festivities from the Municipal Auditorium’s balcony.

MYM: What happens at midnight?
Ellen: The thing that’s cool about Rex is that at midnight on Mardi Gras, they open the walls dividing Rex and Comus. The two kings greet each other – I believe the king of Rex goes to Comus because it’s the older Krewe – and the balls combine. I have a vague memory of actually going onto the ballroom floor after that, but I honestly can’t say if that’s true or not. Maybe wishful thinking on my part! But I’m pretty sure it happened. (It’s NOLA – I’d probably knocked back quite a few cocktails by then!)

At each ball, the court is announced and presented one maid and escort at a time, culminating in the appearance of the queen. Remember, since they’re debs, they’re all about twenty-one while the kings are middle-aged NOLA grandees. I have a vague memory of someone telling me that her king was the family gynecologist. You have to shelve the creep factor and just play along with the fun of it.
(Note: Shameless Shilling of Ellen's new book in photo.)

Ellen: What was float riding like?
MYM: Let's put it this way, it is not for the faint of heart. My husband, our daughter and I decided to ride the float after we talked with a friend of ours from the Krewe of Morpheus. We loaded ourselves and our thousands and thousands of beads onto the float around 5:00 pm. Oh did I mention the before party which started at 2:30 pm. The Morpheus parade did not begin until 7:00 pm and we did not get off the float until around midnight. And remember you are standing the entire time or maybe sitting on several bags of beads. And the after party that went on until who knows when

Our Krewe float leader supplied us with food, soft drinks and water on board. Anything else was up to each rider. And yes there was a restroom on board, phew!

Ellen: What are the crowds like?
MYM: The crowds on St. Charles Avenue are right below you as the float drives by and the sound is deafening. Hands reaching up almost to where you are standing for beads. It was crazy. People are standing 10 deep on the sidewalk. I used my old baseball throwing skills to reach some of them. Some people walked along side the float as we inched our way down the street. When the parade paused briefly, there were crowds of people surrounding the float chanting "Throw me something."

Ellen: Did you run out of beads?
MYM: We were so lucky though we ran out of beads pretty much at the end of the parade on Canal St. We never threw bunches of beads out, we just threw one strand at a time. If we had tossed handfuls, we would have run out of beads before we turned on to St. Charles!

Ellen: How did you feel about the experience?
MYM: It was an incredible experience and we might do it again, but not for a couple of years!

For a review of Mardi Gras Murder, click here.

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Forever Fudge

Allie McMurphy finds a dead man in the alley behind her business on Mackinac Island and a chess clue seems to challenge her to solve the case. In Forever Fudge by Nancy Coco, Allie isn't sure why she is the target. (Forever Fudge will be released on September 25 by Kensington Publishing.)

To make matters worse, a film crew has pitted each side of the street against one and other for the opportunity to be featured in the opening credits of the TV show. Allie has been saving money to remodel the roof to include a patio, and she doesn't want to use the money to pay a TV series to be included in their shooting schedule.

When the handsome leading man appears on the island, the residents double down on their desire to be included. Dirk Benjamin, the heartthrob from Hollywood has been shadowing local cop Rex Manning so he can learn the fine points of investigating for his role on TV. Not especially pleased with this arrangement, Rex wants to keep Allie out of the investigation.

When her dog unearths the severed toe of the victim in a flower bed
along with another chess move, Allie feels compelled to investigate. Naturally Rex doesn't want her involved, but she takes the chess clues as a personal message for her to get involved, especially as they refer to other events in which she has solved the mystery.

Adding to Allie's problems is the growing affection she has for Rex and the lingering feelings for Trent Jessop. Allie wants a life on Mackinac Island, Trent does not.

Another entertaining mystery withe fudge recipes to die for!

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Permanent Sunset

Against her better judgment Sabrina and her partner Henry take on the management of lavish Villa Nirvana on St John. In Permanent Sunset by C. Michele Dorsey, Sabrina is sure the villa is going to bring unwanted attention to them. After the last brush with "fame", Sabrina wants to lay low and just manage their 10 Villas.

The Keating family gathers for the wedding of son Sean, but the bride, on the eve of the wedding, has a meltdown and refuses to sign a prenuptial agreement. She storms off and is missing on the day of the wedding. Sabrina begins to look for Elena and wander down to the beach to search. The plans for a glamorous wedding are ruined when the bride turns up missing, then dead, drowned at the water's edge.

Of course the murder brings Sabrina to the attention of the police but this time it is not her friend Detective Janquar, but the allegedly corrupt and ambitious Detective Vernon Hodge. He tries to tie the previous murder in the 10 Villas to this one and accuses Sabrina and Henry of not providing enough security for their guests. He even threatens to revoke their real estate license, thereby terminating their ability to manage the Villas.

The wealthy family members are all suspects, but Sabrina’s own past keeps cropping up. With the assistance of lawyer (not licensed the Virgin Islands) Neil Perry, it is soon discovered Elena was not who she claimed to be. With Jack Keating's wife and ex-wife present, two angry sons and lots of competition for the business, the Keating family has plenty of suspect to go around. An excellent adventure in paradise

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Interview with Lori Rader-Day

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My fourth novel is Under a Dark Sky, the story of Eden Wallace, a young widow who finds in her husband’s effects a reservation to stay at the guest house at a dark sky park, where people go to stargaze. Despite the fear of the dark she’s developed since he died, she keeps that reservation, only to find six strangers also staying at the guest house. Before she can leave, one of them is killed, and so she’s a suspect, drawn into the investigation. Someone called it And Then There Were None crossed with The Big Chill, and that’s pretty close, if The Big Chill was mostly Millennials.

(Editor's note: Lori won the Anthony for the Best Paperback Original at Bouchercon for The Day I Died.)

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
For Under a Dark Sky, the location came first. I heard about dark sky parks and had to find out more. This location seemed so fraught with potential—a place set up to be dark? Perfect location for a murder mystery. The character came second for this book. I wanted to write about something that scares me, so I chose to write about a young widow. I couldn’t get a handle on the character until one day when I realized her name was Eden. I started researching the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Michigan, which I used as the model for my park, and discovered their guest house’s reservations were a little hard to figure out. Once I imagined Eden going to the park to be alone and being stuck with a group of friends with their own agenda and in-fighting, I began to write. Eden developed as I wrote. I never know everything about a character when I start. If I did, I don’t know if I’d want to write about them.

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 about 2000 words a day more days than not. Sometimes I don’t write at all, especially when I’m launching a book (like right now, as I’m typing this in a hotel room in Indianapolis). I’d rather be writing, but the job isn’t just writing. There’s a lot of extra work involved, and it’s easy to get that work done and never get to the blank page. But if I’m there doing 1000-2000 words more days than not, that’s not a bad way to get a book written. I used to have to be much more strict with myself because the only time of day I could write was during my lunch hours. I have more flexibility at the moment. I usually do email and promotions stuff in the morning and then write after lunch, sometimes after dinner if that’s the only time I have left. Right now, I’m touring for the book, so a day in my life is primarily spent in my car.

Do you belong to a writers group or are you in touch with other writers? How does that help your writing?
I’m not in a writers group at the moment, but I am in touch with many other writers through Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. Chicago is also a great place to meet writers of all kinds. Writing is a lone pursuit up to a point, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. Having friends who are also writers is great for when you need to commiserate or celebrate. Other writers get what you’re going through better than anyone else.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
Eden isn’t based on myself or anyone I know. That’s not to say that I never sneak in autobiographical touches here and there (especially in my earlier books) but Under a Dark Sky is probably the novel that is least based on my life, the most purely fictional character and situation.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
I think Reese Witherspoon should option all my books and sort out the roles she wants. She could rock Eden Wallace. Or Charlize Theron. Or Kristen Bell, just because I love her.

Who is your favorite author?
If I only had to pick one, it would be Agatha Christie. But I’m also a fan of Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, and other classic mystery authors. I also read widely and am always up for a new novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, TC Boyle, Michael Chabon, Tana French, Megan Abbott, Susan Orlean, Lou Berney, Kelly Link, Laura Lippman, and Annie Proulx.

How do you keep track of character details from book to book so they are consistent?
I don’t write a series, so I get to start over each book with whatever character I need, whatever traits they develop as I write. I keep track of details I need to note or use later in a separate word document. Ideas, reminders, specific character details I need to work into the whole all goes in the notes document. I also keep a notebook with me for each novel, and notes can go there if I’m away from the laptop.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?

I make a pretty good communications officer for not-for-profits...that’s what I did for twenty years while I launched my fiction-writing career.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Mardi Gras Murder

It's nearly Mardi Gras time in Pelican, Louisiana, but one thing not on the list of festivities is a dead body. In Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron, Maggie Crozat is in the thick of an investigation. After a flood plants the body of a man behind her grandmother's house, Maggie tries to discover who is was. When it is learned the body found after the flood was murdered, not a drowning victim, the police get involved. (Mardi Gras Murder will be released on October 9).

The flooding has delayed the opening of the controversial opening of the Louisiana Orphan Train, a little-known piece of history. Battle lines are drawn between those who do not want the exhibit to open and those who feel is is necessary to tell the story of the past.

One of the opposed is Gerard Damboise, head judge of the Miss Pelican Mardi Gras Gumbo Queen contest and self-proclaimed president of the St. Pierre Parish Historical Society. A fussy man who believes his heritage entitles him to be in charge.

When Gran backs out of being a judge for the contest, Maggie is coerced into taking her place. Gerard is vehemently oppose to the Orphan Train exhibit and tries to delay its opening. He is opposed to telling people about the grimy undergarments of the poor immigrant children who came from the Lower East Side tenements of New York on the Orphan Train. This offends his gentile southern sensitivities.

Not everyone agrees and someone decides to kill Gerard. As Maggie is driving home, she discovers him driving erratically and when they both stop, he tumbles out of the car. With Pelican residents in full Mardi Gras preparation, and Maggie's dad in overdrive, this is a difficult time to be investigating.

As usual, Ellie Bryon adds just the right amount of spice to her gumbo and makes Mardi Gras Murder an enticing mystery. Laissez les bon temps rouler.

For a review of the previous Maggie Crozat book, A Cajun Christmas Killing, click here.

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