Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Shot in the Dark

Much to Clare's amazement the Village Blend becomes a hub for a dating apps best place to hookup. In Shot in the Dark by Cleo Coyle, that might not be the best reputation to have. In fact on a night when the coffeehouse is packed with patrons, a young woman pulls out a gun and fires shots into the ceiling as she threatens a young man.

It seems the Cinder app with its Cinder-Fellas and Tinker-Tinker responses have made the app a huge success, but not everyone is happy about it. Once Gun Girl displays and fires her weapon, Clare knows she has to calm down the scene. When the police take Carol Lynn Kendall away, they question the object of her rage - Richard Crest. He claims innocence about why she was so angry. He admits to hooking up with her via the app, but it was just "for fun" he claimed.

Before you can say doppio, the scene has gone viral and people are staying away in droves from the Village Blend. Because the Cinder app is feeling the effects of the video, SydneyWebber-Rhodes founder and CEO of Cinder turns up with her Tinkerbells to try to mitigate the damage. She plans a gigantic hook-up event at the Village Blend, but not to be outdone, Clare and Esther plan a poetry slam upstairs to let customers talk about their bad experiences with dating apps. What could go wrong?

When Clare finds the body of one of her customers in the Hudson River, she thinks maybe Richard Crest is more than a philandering jerk. As she investigates, she is dragged into more than the dating app scene.

This is a fast-paced mystery with lots of excitement and twists and turns. I'm always craving coffee and pastry after I read these books.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Murder on Union Square

Sarah and Frank a very close to adopting Catherine, the girl Sarah has been raising as her daughter when they encounter a legal roadblock. In Murder on Union Square by Victoria Thompson, it appears Catherine's birth mother was married to someone who although not the child's father, is legally considered to be the father. I know confusing.

In any case, the Malloy's meet with Parnell Vaughn and he agrees to relinquish parental rights to Catherine. His ambitious fiancee wants money for the child, but although it is illegal to pay for the custody, Frank is determined to finish the process.

The next day he goes to the theatre to give the money to Parnell and have him sign the forms only to find Parnell dead with his head bashed in from a violent attack.

Seizing on the opportunity for more drama, Eliza Grimes starts
screaming that Frank has killed her fiance Parnell. Before you know it, Frank is arrested and taken to The Tombs. Thoroughly mortified, he is finally released and his lawyer advises that if he pays enough money, his case will never go to court. Frank, however, doesn't want his future and his children's futures to exist under a cloud, so he decides to find the real killer.

With the theatre as the backdrop, there is much drama with the other actors. Leading lady and a little over the hill to be playing the ingenue, Adelia Hawkes makes her leading men jump through hopes to get the parts. Parnell Vaughn was one of them. Her husband turns a blind eye and her agent seems to drift in and out of the picture.

With all these characters, it is difficult for Frank and Sarah and their detectives to find the real killer and clear him.

Another excellent period book from Victoria Thompson and the wonderful cast of characters.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Antique Blues

Antique dealer Josie Prescott is thrilled her friend Mo Shannon has a acquired a beautiful Japanese woodblock print she loved. In Antique Blues by Jane K. Cleland, Josie's friend asks her to appraise her new acquisition.

The print is one of by famed Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige and is part of a series called One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. The beautiful, peaceful scene is rendered in shades of white, blue and brown with colors so vibrant and bold it appears to have never been seen in daylight. Original prints from this series are extremely scarce,which leads Josie to doubt the authenticity of this print.

Mo's sister Lydia and her boyfriend Cal try to discourage Mo from getting an appraisal, especially as Cal is the one who sold the print to her. Ever cautious, this also raises concerns for Josie.

When Mo falls to her death a few days later, Jane is glad she had the foresight to bring the print into
her shop and keep it in her possession. Could the print have caused Mo's death? When Cal disappears shortly after Mo's death, Jane continues to search for the provenance of Mo's print.

Josie's business and personal life are as complicated as ever. Mo's father asks her to appraise his blues guitar that he thinks was once owned by blues guitar great Robert Johnson. And Ty wonders when their wedding will take place and encourages Josie to start planning.

The Josie Prescott books are easy to read and offer clear insight into the world of antiques. I always learn something from these books. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Inteview with Elizabeth J. Duncan

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My latest book is The Marmalade Murders, published April 24 by St. Martin's Press. This is the ninth book in the Penny Brannigan series set in North Wales; I have three books in another series, Shakespeare in the Catskills, published by Crooked Lane Books. So that's 12!

How did you become interested in writing?
I started out as an avid reader and I've worked as a writer my whole life. It's just what I do. I've been a journalist, a public relations practitioner, and now a novelist.

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, etc?
I aim to write 1,000 words a day, but I'm not nearly as disciplined as I should be. I'm easily distracted and before I know it, there's another day gone, and not a child in the house washed, as the Irish say.  I used to write in the evening, but tend now to write in the morning. As for as the writing itself, that accounts for only about 1/3 of an author's time. The other two thirds are marketing and public relations activities (promotion), proof reading and copy edits, and organizing the writing life.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
I have to submit an outline of the book I propose to write to the publisher, so I start with that, but it's loose, and the finished book may look quite different. I probably know the main plots to help me navigate through the story, but not always. In my last book (Much Ado About Murder), after I'd submitted the book to my editor, I realized the killer was someone else. Interestingly, I'd already planted a couple of clues that pointed to this person, so re-writing to take the book in a different direction wasn't too difficult. Author Barry Lancet describes his writing process as being like driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco at night -- you know where you started, and you know where you're going, but all you can see is what's in the beam of your headlights. That sums it up nicely for me, too.

Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
Many of the places in the Penny Brannigan series are real, and I incorporate fragments of real people ... but never a whole person.

Who is your favorite author?
Often, it's the person I'm reading at the moment, which happens to be Andrew Hughes, author of The Convictions of John Delahunt. I do like the police procedurals of Peter James. I don't read many books from the same genre that I write.

How do you promote your books?
I use social media -- Facebook and Twitter -- attend conferences, do personal appearances, I send out a newsletter, and participate in blogs, like this one. Thank you for the opportunity!
For a review of The Marmalade Murders, click here. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Cake & Punishment

Sophia Cummings returns home to Rumsford, Kentucky, to recover from an embarrassing breakup with her chef boyfriend in Manhattan. In Cake & Punishment by Maymee Bell (Tonya Kappes), Sophia bakes to cheer herself up and her specialty is Red Velvet Crunchies. As a pastry chef in the same restaurant as her ex, she feels she needs a breather.

Her mother and some of her high school friends think she should relocate to Rumsford and open her own bakery. Sophia isn't sure but does agree to bake a wedding cake for friend Charlotte when the original baker cancels.

Before Sophia can crack an egg for the cake, she discovers  Emile, the chef at the Rumsford Country Club, bashed over the head with a skillet - dead in the club. When the long-time manager of the club is suspected of the murder and the police threaten to close the Club forcing the cancellation of Charlotte's wedding, Sophia steps in to calm the bride. Charlotte is used to having her own way, so Sophia knows she needs to calm the storm before it brews.

There was no love lost between Emile and his staff, especially club manager Evelyn, but Sophia is
positive Evelyn is not the killer. As she tries to convince Sheriff Carter to let her continue to bake and cook in the country club, Sophia tries to clear Evelyn from suspicion.

As Sophia investigates, she browses around the downtown of Rumsford and discover the former bakery storefront, now vacant, and begins to feel the pull of the town. Nothing would please her mother more than to have Sophia back in town.

When one of the employees is charged with the murder, Sophia is not sure the real killer has been apprehended and continues to investigate and bake.

Cake & Punishment is a great beginning to a new series. I look forward to seeing how Sophia settles in Rumsford and co-exists with her mother. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Murder in the Locked Library

When excavation for a luxurious spa at Storyton Hall, Virginia, uncovers a skeleton and a badly damaged book, Jane Steward finds herself in the midst of a centuries-old crime. In Murder in the Locked Library by Ellery Adams, Jane had hoped the visiting book lovers would enjoy the resort without any outside interruptions. But that was not meant to be.

The members of the Rare Book Conference in attendance are eager to inspect the damaged book, but Jane needs to review the book first. She discovers there is barely any type visible on the pages. The cover of the book has a bunch of wheat on it leading some to think it might be a cookbook. After some study, Jane discovers the book writing can be viewed using a special technique and it appears to be a cookbook with some toxic ingredients included in the recipes.

Who was the person buried on the grounds and what is the significance of the book?

Jane and her staff try to piece together the answer when a visiting forensic anthropologist provides
expertise in the quest to discover the origins of both book and body. In the meantime the Robert Harley Society members offer their expertise as to the origin of the book. One member in particular - Bart Baylor - is known as the Book Doctor, and he offers to take a closer look. The book is identified as Mrs. Tanner's Everyday Receipts, but later became known as The Devil's Receipts, especially as toxic ingredients were discovered in the recipes.

Unfortunately after making this discovery, Bart falls dead from cyanide poisoning from the gloves he used to inspect the books. Shocked by this turn of events, Jane goes into superprotective mode; not only for her twin boys, but because she is the Guardian of the countless treasured volumes in the incredible library at Storyton Hall.

Jane soon learns not everyone is who they appear to be. Another excellent mystery by Ellery Adams.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Fire Dancer

Money, murder and inheritance fill the air in Fire Dancer by Susan Slater. Ben Pecos and his fiancee Julie Conlin are invited by a friend to stay at her palatial home in New Mexico.

Connie CdeBaca is the head of a family of successful land developers, but she harbors a deep secret she has never told anyone. She is also terminally ill with leukemia and has made arrangements for her estate that will profoundly impact her three step children. There is no love loss between the adult children and Connie, but because of an error in a survey a hundred years ago, the land she is trying to develop should really be part of the Sandia Pueblo.  She wants to give the land back to them instead of developing it into mega-homes.

Naturally this does not go over well with the step children. Greedy, angry and willing to do anything to stop Connie, they plot to gain control.

Meanwhile in his job as a psychologist at the Indian Health
Services in Albuquerque, Ben has been treating a person with gender identity issues. Em is a young Indian, born male, but trying to identify as a female. His identify issues arose after he was given up for adoption as a baby and raised by a Mormon couple. His adopted mother let him cross dress but his adoptive father was against it. With both of them dead, he from illness and she being murdered, he sets out to find his Indian roots.

When a murder takes place, we learn some of the secrets being hidden. Fire Dancer is a suspenseful, exciting mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Marmalade Murders

Who knew baking contests could be so deadly? Penny Brannigan and Victoria Hopkirk, co-owners of the Llanelen Spa, are asked to assist with the entries in the jams, marmalades and cakes categories at the annual agricultural show. In The Marmalade Murders by Elizabeth J. Duncan what could go wrong with this simple task?

On the Friday before the show opens, Penny and Victoria dutifully log in the entries, but realize their friend Florence's entries have not been turned in yet. Penny calls her and Florence races to the tent with her entries. She says someone called her and told her not to bring in the entries until the morning. Stumped by this situation, they decide it must have been a prank. But Penny recalls the whispered words she heard that night about not wanting someone to win. Worrisome.

The next day after the awards have been distributed, Penny discovers Florence's beautiful carrot cake is no where to be seen and her marmalade is missing as well. Although she won for her raspberry jam, Florence is disappointed that her other items are missing.

When they find her carrot cake, they also find the body of Gaynor Lewis tucked under the table. There had always been stiff competition between Gaynor and Elin Spears over their baking skills, but it escalated when Gaynor divorced husband Carwyn Lewis and Elin snatched him up. Another possible suspect is Joyce Devlin, the organizer of the show and sister-in-law to Gaynor and also not a fan.

Penny tries to question the quiet, unassuming assistant Barbara Vickers but she claims not to know anything. When another person dies, Penny is more determined than ever to solve the case.

The Penny Brannigan Mystery series is an excellent adventure in small town living. I always enjoy the descriptions of life in Wales. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Interview with Julia Chapman

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published? 
Date with Malice is the latest arrival in the Samson and Delilah mysteries, the second in the series to be published in the US. Meanwhile, over here in Britain, the third book has just made its debut. Having previously published novels under the name Julia Stagg, this brings the total number of books I have out in the world to eight – a fact I can hardly believe!

How did you become interested in writing?
It was storytelling that drew me in first. I was raised in an Irish family that told tales around the dinner table, so I grew up knowing how to spin a good yarn. Turning to writing seemed like a natural next step. Even now, it is the telling of the story that fascinates me.

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?
No two days are the same! Yesterday I wrote for the morning and then spent the afternoon giving a talk to a local book group. Today I’m dealing with publicity (taking part in this interview for the lovely readers of Map your Mystery) and hopefully will get some writing done before the day is out. But on the whole, I’m a morning person so I prefer to do my creative work first thing. However, when the plot starts to come together, it’s like riding an out-of-control steam train – the momentum just keeps me going and I tend to work long days towards the end of a novel.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go? 
I like to think I plot well before I start… But then I also like to be open to opportunities that arise as the novel develops, which can lead to some interesting changes. It’s also a real buzz to allow free reign to creativity when inspiration strikes during what is supposed to be a well-plotted scene!

Love the character names. How did you decide to use those names and do you use real people and places as models for your books?
I’ve never used real people as the basis for characters in any of my books – simply because creating them is far more fun! Their names, however, are firmly grounded in the area I write about. For the Samson and Delilah series, set in the Yorkshire Dales, I use old census material for surnames and then cross-reference them with current telephone directories/local newspaper articles to make sure the names haven’t died out. For the first names, I access national data for given names across the decades so that I don’t have a seventy-year-old man carrying the name of a modern teen!

As for places, although Bruncliffe (the community in which the Samson and Delilah novels are set) is fictional, the area around it is entirely real. So if you were suddenly transported to the Yorkshire Dales you could find many of the places I mention. They have such amazing names like Hawes and Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Gargrave that I have no need to embellish them!

Who is your favorite author? 
I get asked this a lot and have yet to give an answer! I was raised on a diet of Ed McBain, Dick Francis, Alistair McLean and Hammond Innes with a lot of the Bronte sisters, Elizabeth Gaskell and Jane Austen on the side! So I have a wide range of reading tastes.

How do you promote your books? 
Over here in Britain, I do a lot of bookshop events – talks, cream teas (always fun!), signings etc. They are a brilliant way to meet fellow readers (because all writers are readers, after all…) and talk about books, not necessarily just my books. I have a Facebook page for the Dales Detective series (www.facebook.com/dalesdetective) which is a wonderful space for readers to be able to get in touch and to see photographs of the area I write about. I also use Twitter (@DalesWriter) but I find that’s more to keep in contact with the world of publishing than to promote. Overall, however, I limit the amount of self-promotion I do on social media as there’s nothing worse than an author who is only trying to sell! I find that engaging in genuine conversations about books is a far better way to interact with the millions of readers out there. And is far more interesting for me too.