Friday, May 25, 2018

S'More Murders

When Val and her grandfather are hired to cater a Titanic re-creation dinner on board a yacht everything seems to be going smoothly. In S'more Murders by Maya Corrigan, the wealthy yacht owner Otto Warbeck wants his guests to also participate in a murder mystery game he wrote.

Unfortuntely some of his characters reseble the real peopl too . closely. Included in the guest list is his curent wife, his ex-wife, her son, a neighbor couple, an antique dealer and a last minute substitution. Otto hid the solution to his mystery game somewhere on the ship, but when Otto disappears and is found dead, there are plenty of suspects.

As an aside, I never understand the fascination with the Titanic and why people would want to replicate any event related to it. Titanic to me means an epic tragedy. Anyway back to the book.

Uing the script booklets, Val tries to find a clue to the murderer. Is Otto's death related to some
missing Titanic artifacts or is there something more sinister going on.

Complicating issues for Val is a new wrinkle in her relationship with her boyfriend Gunnar, accountant/actor. This situation pulls her in two directions, but she still manages to solve the murder.

Another fun read from Maya Corrigan.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Single Malt Murder

After her uncle dies unexpectedly, Abigail Logan inherits his whiskey distillery in Scotland. In Single Malt Murder by Melinda Mullet, the people of Balfour take distilling seriously and don’t think it is a place for a woman. 

Several threats and sabotage make this clear, but Abi is not deterred. She wants to learn about the business before she decides whether to sell or not. The sharks are circling though and several distilleries are anxious for her to sell. Could one of them be behind the sabotage and the threats?

The Haven, as the home is called, is perfect and could have been decorated right out of Country Living, and Abbey Glen, the distillery, is quaint yet modern. Abi has been on the road so long, she has forgotten what living in a comfortable house means.

Her uncle's head distiller Grant MacEwan doesn't make her feel
any more welcome, but Abi is the owner so she prods him for answers on how the operation is run. When she asks to see the Abbey the distillery is named after, she is shocked to learn her unlce Ben named it for her. With a lump in her throat, Abi decides to learn as much as she can about the distilling process before she makes her decision to stay or go.

A murder brings the issue to a head. It frightens Abi to think someone in the village if behind the sabotage and now the murder, but as a journalist, she knows she can dig deeper and try to solve the puzzle. 

An excellent book with great details about whiskey distilling. Who knew there were other subtle flavors in single malt whiskey. Anxious to try some now! The second in the series is Death Distilled: A Whisky Business Mystery is out now.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Interview with Mary Feliz

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

Disorderly Conduct is the fourth mystery in my Maggie McDonald Mystery series featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her side-kick golden retriever.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
I initially thought of my story as a way to cope with a divisive local issue plaguing the school system in my community. Residents were choosing sides and vilifying those who disagreed with them. “What if…” I wondered. “What if people really were as evil as everyone is saying? What would that mean for our town? How would we fix it? Is it even possible?” The story quickly morphed into a murder mystery but then shifted focus away from the real-life situation I felt I was too close to. Real people are seldom interesting enough to make good characters in fiction. I wanted my fictional town to be filled with people who were more nuanced than the way adversaries were referring to one another in the real town on which Orchard View is based. Silicon Valley, where I’d lived for more than 30 years had become a popular subject in the news, movies, and television dramas. But those media tended to portray the mega rich, and I wanted to reveal the world of ordinary people.

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?
Every day is a little different, depending on the demands of the rest of my life, but I typically have breakfast and read the paper, then work on my work-in-progress for at least an hour without interruption. Once I’ve done that, I may extend the writing period or work on promotion or schedule for the rest of the morning. In the afternoon I do my workout. The life of a writer can be very sedentary, and I try to log at least 10,000 steps and some weight training to balance things out. Afterwards, I may go back to the computer, especially if I’m close to a deadline. I try to wrap things up by 5:30 pm and spend the evening with my husband, but that doesn’t always work out according to plan.

Do you belong to a writers group or are you in touch with other writers? How does that help your writing?
I’ve belonged to writers groups online and in person, but don’t currently write with others. I do get together with a group of mystery writers in Santa Cruz County (Santa Cruz Women of Mystery), but it’s more about drinking coffee and sharing tips on the business of writing than it is a writing group. I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime, particularly the Guppy Chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and the Authors Guild. Writers need other writers, and the internet has been a boon to us, because we can still work in isolation while still having an instant connection with others.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know? 
While friends tell me that the recognize me in the character of Maggie, I think of her as totally different from me, but maybe she’s an idealized version of me (younger, thinner, more organized). It’s difficult for any of us to view ourselves objectively

Who is your favorite author? 
Most days it’s Louise Penny, but I also love all of Madeleine L’Engle’s books, the Lincoln Rhyme books of Jeffrey Deaver, the Andy Carpenter series by David Rosenfelt, and the books of Anne Cleeves. I’m a promiscuous reader and will read any well-written book regardless of genre.

How do you keep track of character details from book to book so they are consistent?
When I started the series, I made collages for all the main and secondary characters with their likes, dislikes, favorite quotes, their car, and some of their physical characteristics and quirks. I posted those collages to the walls of my office where they were handy for easy reference. But then I moved. My new office is tiny with no room for the collages. So far, I’ve had luck with a spreadsheet outlining my characters, their details, backstory, and reasons for wanting the victim dead, along with where they were and what they were doing when the murder occurred. But I’d be in deep trouble without the sharp-eyed copy editors employed by Kensington.

As far as physical characteristics go, though, I tend to under-describe the people in my books because I think their appearance is the least interesting thing about them. I know exactly what they each look like, but none of those details tells me anything about their motivation, goals, friendships, personality, strengths, fears, and flaws.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
I’ve become fascinated with the natural world surrounding my new hometown on California’s Central Coast. Known as the Serengeti of the Sea for the richness of its wildlife, Monterey Bay is a national marine sanctuary. The wetlands on the shore and the redwood forests team with wildlife, some of it rarely seen by humans. I’d love to know much more about the geology, natural history, and life of the region, and hope to take a naturalist course next year. The fifth book in the Maggie McDonald series, Cliff Hanger, will release in June 2019, and takes place on Monterey Bay.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Springtime in New York 1

Last weekend, I spent a few days in New York City with my sister and my daughter. My sister and I were born and raised there, but I have not been back in years. One of the first places we visited was the storefront on 74th and Madison that had once been our father's restaurant. It is now a Christian Science Reading Room in a very ritzy neighborhood now! Who knew.

We also visited the New York Pubic Library and were awed by the beautiful ceilings and the WPA murals. And, of course, the books.

Naturally I went right for the new mysteries. Saw many books from some of my author friends.

The WPA murals are astonishing. They are huge and so beautifully painted.

Of course you cannot visit New York (especially if you are a Hamilton fanatic) without a visit to The Grange.

We headed Uptown and visited The Grange in Harlem. The house is operated by the National Park Service and is free. That little person standing in front of the building is me! The big guy in the picture on the right, of course, is Alexander Hamilton.

Spent a rainy day at the New York Botanical Garden and saw the new Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit of her time in Hawaii. Walked around the grounds and saw beautiful peonies of every shade then into the Conservatory to see orchids of all kinds.

And last but not least, the setting sun shining on one of my favorite buildings - the Chrysler Building. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Etched in Tears

Local boy Dennis Lansing returns home triumphantly as a celebrated glass artist with an exhibition at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. In Etched in Tears by Cheryl Hollon, his glorious return is short lived.

Some time during the night he was murdered and inelegantly draped over a green bench in the museum's garden. Savannah takes his death very hard as he was her first high school boyfriend and he was an apprentice at her father's glass. Complicating the issue is a reference letter from her father found clutched in Dennis' hand.

Another complication is Dennis' not so grieving wife Harriet who is glad to be rid of him before she inherits her multi-million dollar trust fund. An excellent motive.

When Savannah tries to search her father's files, which she has resisted for some time, she finds they are encrypted, adding to the mystery. How fitting for her father to encrypt files especially because he had been a cryptographer for the Unites States during the Cold War.

Even more amazing, Savannah discovers an Engima machine from
World War II that was used to break the German code. Why in the world would her father have used this machine to code the paperwork for the students in his apprenticeship program? What secret or private information would be revealed once the code was broken?

As Savannah tries to unlock the code, she relies on Jacob her young assistant who has a knack for numbers and puzzles. Jacob also has been extremely helpful in the business. He has figured out a way to load the kiln in the most efficient manner, a huge bonus for Savannah.

The suspects abound including the elusive director of the museum, an overzealous security guard and a local politician. An entertaining and fast-paced mystery. And, oh by the way, I love the glass elements. Can't wait to get to St. Petersburg to see the Chihuly museum.

Friday, May 18, 2018

To Helvetica and Back

You'd be hard pressed to find many typewriter users in this day or I-Pads, tablets, phones and other electronic devices. In To Helvetica and Back (love the title) by Paige Shelton, The Rescued Word, owned by Chester Henry and his adult granddaughter Clare, repair old typewriters and restore old books.

In the beautifully scenic town of Star City, Colorado,Clare is working on the restoration of an old edition of Tom Sawyer. Chester old friend Mirabelle needs her old manual Underwood typewriter repaired because the "L" key is sticking. Clare knows how much Mirabelle loves her typewriter so she promises to repair it.

When a strange man comes in asking to purchase the typewriter, Clare of course, refuses, but the man becomes threatening. A quick call to 911 sends the belligerent man on his way. Unfortunately the next morning, Clare finds him dead behind the shop

Neither Chester nor Clare have alibis and the police seem to think they might be suspects. Not
deterred by this false accusation, especially because Clare's ex-boyfriend Creighton is involved in the investigation, she decides to closely inspect the Underwood to see what the attraction is.

While inspecting the keys, Clare finds a series of numbers and letters scratched into the bars of the keys. Mirabelle has no idea what they mean. Could the numbers connect to the dead man behind the store?

In their search for the killer Clare and her police officer friend Jodie (sister to Creighton) join a band of motorcyclist in a goat relocation project, find themselves in a rough bar and suspect the owner of the Tom Sawyer edition of being the killer. The story weaves its way through to an unlikely, but interesting conclusion given Colorado's silver mining history.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Marinating in Murder

The Culinary Capers group is set to have their monthly dinner meeting, but it's an outdoor picnic instead even though it is fall in Vermont. In Marinating in Murder by Linda Wiken, the friends are waiting for Allison so they can load their coolers into her SUV. (Published by Kensington Books.)

When she does, they are shocked to find the body of her not-so-ex-husband James. But more shocking is that he was married to another woman at the same time as he was married to Allison.  J.J. Tanner cannot resist the opportunity to investigate.

The situation becomes complicated when the second wife, Jessica, shows up and accuses Allison of murdering her husband, who she knows as Jeffrey. As J.J. digs deeper, she finds James/Jeffrey lead a secretive life and neither wife knew many details about his life.

While J.J. investigates, she meets Jessica's brother Brad who wants to help find the killer, but also seems interested in seeing her socially. She's torn by
this as she is still hoping to develop a relationship with the handsome PI Ty Devine, but J.J. figures she can investigate and enjoy an occasional dinner with Brad.

The more she digs, the fewer details J.J. is able to find about James/Jeffrey. She locates a group of hockey players who recognize him as someone from the fringe of their group, but no one claims any real knowledge of him.

In addition to her investigation, J.J. is dealing with a Bridezilla in job at Make It Happen. In J.J.'s mind event planning can be more difficult than a murder investigation.  Her investigation leads her into some unusual places and puts her in danger, but, as also, J.J.'s resourcefulness saves the day.

This series is a favorite of mine because of the Culinary Capers rotating dinner. This is something I have always wanted to organize. Maybe this will be the year.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Interview with Nancy Cole Silverman

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

I’m currently finishing up edits on Reason to Doubt, book five in the Carol Childs Mysteries while I dabble with the beginnings of a new series. The new series takes Misty Dawn, an aging Hollywood psychic to the stars, out from beneath the umbrella of the Carol Child’s Mysteries where she played minor roles and launches her into a series of her own.

How did you develop your character and choose your location? 
I spent twenty-five years in talk radio and when I began to write it’s all I knew. So radio and Los Angeles felt like a natural to me. I liked making my character a middle-aged woman because women, particularly women covering news stories, are so complex. They’re faced with balancing family, work and relationships and heavy, sometimes backbiting competition to remain relevant.

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 first thing n the morning and try to write at least a thousand to fifteen hundred words a day. If that sounds daunting, I think of it as writing scenes. It’s easier to think today I need to write the ‘bar scene,’ get the bones of the scene together then go back and dress it up.

Do you belong to a writers group or are you in touch with other writers? How does that help your writing?
I have several writer friends I’m constantly in touch with but I seldom share what I’m working on until I’ve completed a draft. What I do do, however, is what I call story therapy. Talk it out. Ellen Byron and I are walking partners. I call our walks My Tuesday Mornings With Ellen. Lots and of times we’ll share ideas. I’m also good friends with Rochelle Staab. She and I frequently talk shop over lunch. What I do know, it’s important for a writer to get out and away from their desk. It’s amazing how walking away from a project for a short bit can reinvigorate an idea.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know? 
I’ve been accused of being Carol. But she’s so much gutzier and cooler than I ever was.

Who is your favorite author? 
There are so many. But for coffee contemporary mystery with a female protagonist I’d have to say, Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, Tammy Hoag,

How do you keep track of character details from book to book so they are consistent? 
I’ve started an excel sheet with birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

If you could not be an author, what would you like to do as a career? 
Teach maybe? I teach creative writing classes from time to time, and I do enjoy that. I would be hard for me to say at this point in my life what else I’d like to do. I’ve come to the writing thing, or fiction writing anyway, late in life, and I’ve already run the gambit of things I’d love to do.

For a review of Room for Doubt, click here. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

And the winner is . . .

And the winner of the Malice Domestic Mystery Most Geographical is Faith Creech!


 Thanks to everyone who entered and left comments. Watch for another Giveaway in June.

Monday, May 14, 2018

As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles

It's Christmas time in Jewel Bay, Montana, and the Merc is very busy. Why would Erin choose this time of year to get married? In As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles by Leslie Budewitz, the black sheep of a local family returns to redeem herself, but not everyone is happy to see her. (The book will be released on June 8 by Midnight Ink.)

Merrily Thornton was accused of having an affair with local businessman Cliff Grimes and then stealing funds from the company. She spent some time in jail and now, 20 years later she wants to reconcile with her parents and her sister. When she arrives her mother creates a huge scene, spoiling any chance of reconciliation.

Erin feels sorry of Merrily and invites her to a cookie exchange on the weekend. When she doesn't show up, Erin is disappointed but figures Merrily didn't want to deal with the townspeople especially after the scene on Main Street. 

Although Erin was not able to hire Merrily when she came looking for a job, Greg Taylor, owner of
the Building Supply Company hired her, giving her a second chance. When Merrily doesn't show up for work after the weekend, Erin is concerned, but when some money is missing from Greg's business, everyone jumps to the conclusion that Merrily has stolen again.

Erin thinks maybe Merrily has just left town and she decides to visit Merrily's home to see if there is any sign of why she left. When she arrives, she discovers the makings for Christmas cookies for the exchange, but something interrupted Merrily. Sadly she finds her dead nearby.

Erin adds solving Merrily's murder to her growing to-do list before the wedding. There are several suspects making the search more difficult. Add to the mix a Merrily's college-age daughter and the soon-to-be ex-husband no one knew about.

The Merc is a great place and I wish there was a store just like that in my town. I very much enjoy this series and I was happy to see Erin and Adam get married. Looking forward to the next in the series.