Friday, December 13, 2019

This Tender Land

Editor's note: Attendees at Malice Domestic earlier in the spring received a copy of This Tender Land along with many mystery books.  As I am such a mystery snob and pretty much only read mysteries, I wasn't going to bring This Tender Land home with me, but when I read the back cover I was intrigued. I am so happy I did. 

My guest reviewer is Denise Kainrath, a reader of many more genres than I am. Thanks to Denise for her lovely review and thanks to William Kent Krueger for a wonderful journey down the Mississippi. 

This Tender Land
by William Kent Krueger will go down as my favorite book of 2019. After a reading rut in late fall, I found myself needing a book that would help warm my heart with its vivid descriptions, lovable characters and page-turning imagery.

This Tender Land was one part Huckleberry Finn, another part Where the

Crawdads Sing, and nothing short of enjoyable. Two orphaned white boys end up at a Native American reformation school in northern Minnesota, where they are mistreated alongside children from native tribes across the country. A traumatic series of events has the two young boys on the run, accompanied by Mose, their mute Sioux friend, and a newly orphaned little girl.

The group sets off down the river in a borrowed canoe, hoping to make it to St. Louis by way of the Mississippi River. The brothers are certain that there is a better life for their newly-minted family, and they meet quite the cast of characters along the way.

As I was reading this, I could hear the crickets chirping, water splashing and feel the heat of the summer sun on my face. The storytelling in this book is one for the ages, and definitely warrants an auto-buy for anything that William Kent Krueger writes in the future.

This book is perfect for any reader on your Christmas list, or even for yourself. I read this snuggled with with a blanket and a caramel apple spice latte from Starbucks and have no complaints. If you enjoyed the isolation and resiliency found in Where the Crawdads Sing, this is a book you are sure to love.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Sealed Off

The clambake season is winding down in Busman's Harbor, Maine, and the Snowden family only has a few more events before fall arrives.  In Sealed Off by Barbara Ross, Julia Snowden is looking forward to the season ending. Between the constant bickering among her crew and the renovation of her family's home on Morrow Island, she cannot wait for the last remaining clambakes to be completed.  (Sealed Off will be released by Kensington Publishing Corp. on December 31.)

While she is touring the family home with her mother's cousin 90-year-old Marguerite and her granddaughter Tallulah, the demolition crew discovers a mysterious room, sealed off from the rest of the house. In the room are furnishings and the possessions presumably belonging to the nanny or governess of the family's children. No one is more surprised than architect Wyatt Jayne.

When Julia unearths several handwritten journals from among
the effects in the room, a new mystery crops up. Who was the young woman and what became of her? While Julia would love nothing more than to research the history of the hidden room, she finds herself thrust in the middle of a quarrel among her crew.

Long-time employee Jason has been flirting relentlessly with Emmy but not to be outdone, another employee Terry seems to be interested in her as well. Of course, this does not sit well with Jason's ex-wife Pru, who also works for the Snowden Clambake. 

When Jason is found dead under the wood pile a few days later and Terry is missing along with one of the Russian demolition crew members, the local police naturally focus on Terry, an ex-con. Because Terry is the brother of Julia's boyfriend Chris, she feels obligated to clear him. 

With two mysteries on her mind, Julia plunges into her investigation. The Maine Clambake Mysteries make me hungry for lobster, corn on the cob and all the trimmings. Another intriguing addition to Barbara Ross' series with two tightly woven mysteries. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Interview with G.P. Gardner

GP Gardner
What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published? 
Murder at the Arts & Crafts Festival, A Cleo Mack Mystery, is my third mystery published by Kensington/ Lyrical Underground.

For a review of Murder at the Arts and Crafts Festival, click here

What was the most recent book you read?
Reading: The Operators (by Michael Hastings), the sto
ry of America’s war in Afghanistan.
Re-reading: Gaudy Night (by Dorothy L. Sayers).
Just finished: Filthy Rich (by James Patterson, the thriller writer) – about Jeffrey Epstein.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
I live in Fairhope, often described as an ordinary little California coastal community that happens to be located in Alabama. Influenced by single-tax Utopians who moved here from Iowa in the 1890s, Fairhope is home to an eclectic population, the main industry is retirees, and the town is quaint…in other words, the perfect setting for a cozy mystery. I wanted my main character to be a competent, mature woman, and it seemed natural to have Cleo Mack leave academics and fall into a job at a community for active retirees.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I’ll tell you about the research for my new series, in which Miss Bizzy Street leaves her first-grade teaching job and becomes a sleuth. I spent about three months on research, studying a map of Birmingham, slicing it to insert the fictional Mountain View community. I went to a real estate website, printed out photos of a condo in a Birmingham high-rise, and made it Bizzy’s home. Researched lethal doses of prescription drugs, symptoms of overdose, time lines. Researched botanical gardens and drew a map of the fictional Jensen gardens, where Miss Bizzy volunteers. I’m still reading about tiny dog breeds and fainting goats, as I’m nearing the mid-point of Miss Bizzy Turns to Crime.

What books did you read as a child?
I was a regular visitor to libraries at school and in town, but when I was about eight my parents splurged on a set of World Book Encyclopedias, and I was in heaven. I read on all topics, memorized the dog breeds, bird species, history, the body transparencies, maps, and loved the “Look-It-Up” twins. That became my motto.

What drew you to writing?
Love of the written word, creativity, independence.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
It’s hopeless—no one can tell that naïve girl anything.

Who is your favorite author?
That’s difficult. Margaret Millar (wife of Ross Macdonald) perhaps. I liked her mysteries and loved her memoir The Birds and the Beasts Were There. I was inspired by her life as a writer.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Oh, what a fun question! It kept me awake last night but here’s the list I came up with:
Michelle Obama – former First Lady, attorney.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall – British royal, the “other woman,” animal rescue patron, adopts dogs.
Neil deGrasse Tyson – astrophysicist and science educator.
Rev. Dr. Paul Smith – clergy, civil rights activist.
Barbara Mertz (aka Elizabeth Peters) – Egyptologist, mystery novelist.

Doesn’t that sound like a great party? Imagine the conversations!

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Dead in Dublin

It's a rare limo driver in Dublin, Ireland who sounds like an American, but Megan Malone does. In Dead in Dublin by Catie Murphy, Megan loves the relaxed vibe of Dublin although her boss is a bit of a harpy. (Dead in Dublin will be released by Kensington Publishing Corp on December 31.)

She has been driving American restaurant critic and food blogger Elizabeth Darr and her husband Simon around Dublin. They stop for dinner at a restaurant owned by one of Megan's friends and seem to enjoy themselves. As soon as they walk outside, Elizabeth collapses in front of the fabled Molly Malone statue and dies. 

All thoughts spring to food poisoning and Megan's friend Fionnula Canan is terrified for her restaurant's reputation. She begs Megan to discover what really happened to Elizabeth. 

Not sure she is equipped to investigate, Megan knows her
former military career has made her observant and detail oriented. Handsome detective Paul Bourke doesn't want Megan's help or interference, as he calls it, but she is not deterred. 

As she learns more about Elizabeth and Simon, she begins to suspect all was not well in the marriage and in their finances. And someone keeps posting new blog posts with Elizabeth very much alive, and the underlying music being the Molly Malone song. Megan thoroughly checks Elizabeth's computer to make sure there aren't any scheduled posts, but none appears. Someone is spoofing the blog. When someone else is brutally murdered, Megan decides to step up her investigation and it leads her to a missing restaurant employee. 

An excellent mystery with a unique lead character in an unusual role. Very much enjoyed the first in this series. 

Monday, December 9, 2019

Murder She Encountered

There's a new spunky female character in town. Her name is Biz Adams and she is a photographer for a newspaper. Nothing special, you think, but wait - this is 1939 and Biz is from a Manhattan society family. Her real name is Elizabeth.

In Murder She Encountered by Peg Cochran. Biz and her reporter partner Ralph Kaminsky are off to cover a robbery at the 1939 World's Fair. When they arrive, they encounter policemen dragging a young man away. As they draw closer, they see the body of a woman lying by the side of one of the show swimming pools. She has been strangled with a nylon stocking. This was not they robbery they thought they would be covering.

Biz snaps a photo of the young man and she sees the fear and confusion in his eyes. It seems he was stalking the murdered woman, so when the police found him standing over her with his clothes wet, they arrest him. 

While Biz and Kaminsky are investigating, they discover the dead woman was a
demonstrator at the DuPont pavilion. DuPont has developed a new material called nylon that lasts longer than silk, costs less and can be made into hosiery. The young woman, Flo Grimm, was one of the many young women desperate for jobs at the World's Fair. 

The more they dig into Flo's past, the more they uncover something rotten going on at the Fair. Then someone else is murdered and Biz digs deeper finding herself in jeopardy.

This series is new to me even though there are two other books in the series, but I loved it. A fast-paced historical mystery with Biz Adams, a woman ahead of her time. 

Friday, December 6, 2019

Murder at the Arts and Crafts Festival

Cleo Mack left academia to become the executive director of Harbor Village, a retirement community in Fairhope, Alabama. The community is filled with energetic seniors with lots of ideas for projects. In Murder at the Arts and Crafts Festival by G.P. Gardner, little did Cleo know she would find murder as well. (Murder at the Arts and Crafts Festival was recently released by Lyrical Underground.)

The community is bustling as it prepares for the upcoming Arts and Crafts Festival. It is a huge event for Fairhope and many tourists from out of town look forward to attending. 

Former teacher and resident of Harbor Village Georgiana Burch is planning a dinner for some of her students who will be attending the festival. But she receives an unexpected surprise when her attention-demanding sister Twinkle Thaw turns up two days early and causes a stir. 

Before you can blink and eye, Twinkle is dead for poisoning and there are plenty of suspects including everyone at the dinner party, Cleo's kitchen staff and one of her other employees. In her quest to determine if Twinkle died from food poisoning, she learns a great deal about the artist and her penchant for dangerous living. 

Cleo also has her own lifestyle dilemma. Her boyfriend Riley Meddors has purchased a home, which she hates, but is having a designer decorate especially for Cleo. He hopes she will love it when she sees it, and move in with him. Right now Cleo is too engrossed in the murder to think about her future. 

Somehow Twinkle's death ties into the art theft at the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum in Boston and Cleo makes it her mission to find the connection. 

I always love books that feature active, energetic seniors. They are more representative of the audience they are reaching. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

A Murderous Tangle

Sally Goldenbaum's books are terrific, not only for the mysteries, but for the scent of wonderful fall foods you can imagine you can smell through the pages. I wish I were a knitter because I would love to join the Seaside Knitters at Izzy's shop or at Nell's house on Fridays. (A Murderous Tangle was recently released by Kensington Publishing.)

In A Murderous Tangle,  a young environmental activist has encouraged the preteens of the town to get involved in cleaning up the shorelines. Tess is an enigma and no one knows much about her. When Birdie's granddaughter Gabby sees Tess arguing with a strange man, then watches as she pushes him into the icy bay, she isn't sure who she should tell or if she should. 

It turns out the man she was arguing with is a bar owner who has no regard for recycling.  When he winds up dead the next day after being pushed from the deck of his bar, the Knitter leap in to investigate. 

Many suspects jump to the forefront including Tess; Gracie, the owner of the adjacent restaurant and sweet Margaret Garozzo. No one wants the murderer to be any of these people, but evidence seems to be piling up against Tess. Gabby tries to convince the adults Tess is not the murderer, but Tess' reticence to explain herself leads many to think she is guilty. 

Adding to the town's concerns are a series of petty thefts from the stores all up and down the Harbor Road. Sometimes the items are returned, but many are still missing. Nothing is any real value and it is creating tension in town. 

Another clever mystery with delightful characters and delicious sounding foods. Wish I had a group of friends like the Seaside Knitters. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Interview with Tamara Berry

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

My newest mystery release is Potions Are For Pushovers, the second in my Eleanor Wilde series. (The first is titled Séances Are For Suckers.) As a cozy mystery author, those are the only two books I’ve published so far. As a romance author under a different penname, I’ve published 19 additional novels. 

For a review of Potions are for Pushover, click here.

What was the most recent book you read?
I recently joined a romance book club in my area, so I’m deep in The Bromance Book Club right now for that. I also listen to audiobooks while I do household chores or run errands, and am listening to Elizabeth Peter’s Crocodile on the Sandbank for what is probably the tenth time. It makes such a good re-read!

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
Eleanor Wilde is the culmination of everything I love in a female character: she’s smart and sharp and has tendency to run afoul of the law, but in such an endearing way that you can’t fault her for it. The location, a quaint town in England, was chosen because I adore quaint towns in England. If I can’t live in one in real life, then living in one through my characters is the next best thing.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? 
I tend to do my research as I go rather than before I start writing. I know lots of authors find this distracting, but I like how it breaks up the writing process. I go into the story with a vague idea of what I want to do, and then let the story unfold by itself. The result is that sometimes I don’t see the twist coming until it happens!

What books did you read as a child?
I was a historical fiction/romance fanatic, although I didn’t know it at the time. The Laura Ingalls Wilder books, Jane Eyre, Little Women, Catherine Called Birdie…if it had a female center, lots of historical ambiance, and a love story, I was all in. I also read a lot of Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, and Christopher Pike. 

What drew you to writing? 
Like most avid readers, I dabbled in short stories and always imagined myself writing a book someday, but the hardest part was sitting down and actually doing it. One November back in 2008, I was recovering from an emergency surgery that required quite a bit of bedrest, so I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo to pass the time. I wrote a book in like 20 days. The book is terrible, and it will never see the light of day, but it taught me that I could see a project through to the end.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Enjoy the process! Celebrate every small success! You are amazing!

I love my job, of course, and seeing my books in a bookstore never gets old, but it can be difficult to remember why I started doing all this in the first place. My daughter, who is 14, just finished her first NaNo project, and I’ve done my best to tell her all the things I wish I could tell my younger self. Her enthusiasm and joy has been really good for us both.

Who is your favorite author?
I adore Georgette Heyer – both her mysteries and her romances, which is why I also write in both genres. She is one of the best authors when it comes to creating lively, well-rounded, memorable characters.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
I’m an introvert to the umpteenth degree, so the idea of having a dinner party with five people I admire fills me with dread. I’d invite someone like Oscar Wilde so he could do most of the talking, and then fill the rest of the table with quiet, kind souls who could be anxious in the background with me.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
This is such a hard question! I can’t think of anything I’d like to do even half as much, so it would have to be a complete departure. Something like a park ranger or a forensic pathologist.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Bookmarked for Murder

A trip to Chicago draws Sam and Nana Jo into a murder that occurs on their bus. In Bookmarked for Murder by V.M. Burns, the seniors from Shady Acres Retirement Village have planned a special trip between Christmas and New Year's Eve. After a busy day in Chicago, all the passengers are looking forward to being back at Shady Acres. (Bookmarked for Murder was published by Kensington Publishers on November 26.)

When they discover a substitute bus driver, they are worried about their return trip, especially when the driver refuses to stop for a rest break. When he finally stops, nearly everyone scrambles off the bus except Irma's new boyfriend Max Franck. After everyone returns, Irma discovers Max dead in his seat. Hardly anyone knew Max, but it's obvious someone on board wanted him dead.  It's up to Sam, Nana Jo and the rest of the "girls" to solve that case.

As much as she hates to get involved in another murder,
Sam decides it's safer to investigate rather than let her grandmother and her friends meddle. Max was a Pulitzer Prize investigate journalist, and had written a book he said would blow the lid off the murder of Robert Kennedy. Sam wonders if someone from his research wanted him dead, but as she learns more about Max she discovers he was not the best father or grandfather. And that's another avenue to investigate. 

Sam sees Max arguing with a woman in the bookstore in Chicago and then again on the bus. She decides to discover the identity of the woman and learns the woman was Max's estranged daughter. There is a health reason behind the estrangement. 

While trying to solve the case, Sam continues to work on her Victorian era novel. She believes her writing helps her clarify her thinking about the current case.  I very much enjoy the dual plot lines.

Bookmarked for Murder has a cast of quirky characters and they are up to their usual antics while solving the case. A delightful mystery. 

Monday, December 2, 2019

Gone, Kitty, Gone

An author once told me cats on the cover of a book help increase sales. Who can argue with that - check out this adorable cat on the cover of Gone, Kitty, Gone by Eileen Watkins. Cassie McGlone has expanded her Comfy Cat business to include a mobile grooming service. (Gone, Kitty, Gone will be released by Kensington Publishing on December 31). 

Her first opportunity to showcase her business arises when she participates in the New Jersey Cat Expo. Along with her veterinarian boyfriend Mark, she will be offering grooming demos and he will be teaching owners about cat care and health. 

Pop star and Jersey girl Jaki Natal has agreed to be the guest of honor and she is bringing her celebrity pet cat Gordie, a Scottish fold. Gordie has become a social media darling because of all the pictures Jaki posts. 

When Gordie is kidnapped and a security guard is found dead, Jaki goes into meltdown and it seems only Cassie can help. Cassie meets a quartet of "Jaki" groupies and they immediately make her suspicious of them.  Also at the Expo is Cassie's highly-allergic-to-cats mother, her new boyfriend and his a Sphynx cat named Looli. Looli will be competing a cat contest. 

With the chaos surrounding the disappearance of Gordie, Cassie is worried about her mother as well as trying to fulfill her obligations to the Expo. When Jaki begs her to find Gordie, Cassie feels she must find the cat before something happens to him. 

But Cassie finds herself in a deadly game of cat and mouse with someone who has already killed to gain what he wants. Can she find Gordie and stay alive herself? Cat lovers of the world will delight in this mystery.