Thursday, August 22, 2019

Relative Fortunes

Traveling to New York to finally claim her portion of her inheritance, Julia Kydd is surprised to learn she might not be receiving that inheritance after all. In Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn, Julie's half brother Phillip has decided to challenge the inheritance, three weeks before her 25th birthday, the day she is to receive it. Relative Fortunes is published by Lake Union Publishing.

Julia has lived in London for many years and has begun to make her way as a small independent publisher. She needs the inheritance money to make her dream come true. On the ship traveling to New York, Julie is reacquainted with an old friend named Glennis Rankin. Glennis practically adopts her and takes her on a whirlwind tour of New York including parties, a seance, a suffragette rally and dinner with her family.

During a dinner party, Madame Sosostris performs her seance and at the end she says she seems someone with "lovely eyes, orbs of sapphire" who cannot find her way. Suddenly Glennis leaps up and screams "Naomi." The room erupts into near panic sending glasses tumbling to the floor and a number of crashes and thuds in the dark. Glennis urges her brother to check on the welfare of their sister Naomi.

When Glennis receives the call that Naomi is dead, apparently by her own hand, she refuses to believe it and goes so far as to say her brother killed her. Julia has her own issues with which to deal, and she doesn't want to get involved in a family affair, but Glennis pleads with her and she relents. Naomi had been a leader in the suffragette movement, to the consternation and mortification of her family. Could this be what lead her to take or life or did someone kill her?

While she waits for her brother's attorneys to come to a judgment on the contested will, Julia decides to investigate. In a rash moment, provoked by her brother, she bets her inheritance on her ability to solve the crime.

This Jazz Era mystery portrays the struggles of women - married or unmarried - to overcome discrimination of all forms. It is an excellent look at life in the 1920s.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Interview with J.L.Doucette

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My new book, the second in the Dr. Pepper Hunt Mystery Series, is called "On A Quiet Street". 
J. L. Doucette

How did you develop your character and choose your location? 
My main character, Dr. Pepper Hunt, is a psychologist who works with a local detective to solve crimes. I am a psychologist and I was inspired by Jonathan Kellerman's psychological mysteries featuring the fictional Dr. Alex Delaware.

I decided to create a female psychologist protagonist. I've gotten a lot of feedback from reviewers and readers that suggest the other lead character. Detective Beau Antelope, should have equal billing because of his role in the books. I did have a hard time deciding if I wanted the main character to be male or female and I think the strength of Antelope's character development indicates that I never really resolve that issue. The two characters, Hunt and Antelope, and their differing gender perspectives, are equally important to the stories.

The location was easy because it was central to the story in the first book. I relocated with my husband and baby daughter to a small town in Wyoming right after we finished graduate school. It was an incredible culture shock after studying and living for years in Boston and Cambridge. Everything was so different, and not in a good way. I wanted to leave as soon as we arrived and that feeling of having landed on another planet stayed with me for a long time. But the place, in the sense of a physical place, got to me and though I moved away, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Partly it was because I made friends and found my place there and started to write there. But mostly it's the power of the landscape, it's windswept emptiness, the huge sky, the sanctuary and silence that seems such a perfect home for the kind of stories I write. It's a place where complicated humans can get themselves in all kinds of trouble.

What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy? 
I still have a full-time psychology practice so I can't say much about the author's lifestyle except that for me, writing happens in the time before I go to my day job. My life is very busy and I wish I had more time for each part of it. From the time I started writing my first book until it was released in 2017, the publishing world changed dramatically.

The writer's lifestyle includes more time devoted to the business of writing especially social media promotion. Talking with readers has been an unexpected joy.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know? 
Pepper Hunt is loosely modeled on me in that we share the same profession. There are many facets of the character as she is written that are very different from me.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? 
My younger writing self was pretty wise, I think, so I'm not sure what else I have to offer. I followed a career path recommended by the poet William Carlos William's, maintained a full-time career as a physician. I wanted to do work that would bring me into close proximity with human suffering. It felt important to me to do some direct good in the world through healing. But working as a psychologist also gave me access to the private lives of patients which has expanded and enhanced my own life experience hugely. And that's a good thing for a writer. If anything, I would advise watching the balance and tilting more in the direction of writing.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character? 
Definitely, Julianne Moore for Pepper Hunt. They have the same intelligence, wit and also hair color.

Who is your favorite author? 
Andre Dubus III, especially, "The House of Sand and Fog". He's a New Englander of French Canadian and Catholic origins, as am I. All of those weighty demographics have their say in his prose and stories

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be? 
I would invite my other favorite authors and enjoy hearing about their experience of writing - Willa Cather, Billy Collins, Junot Diaz, Tana French, and John Updike.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
If I couldn't be an author, some other careers I would enjoy, besides a psychologist, are being a journalist or a private detective. I've actually done both of those on a part time basis. I can't seem to get away from writing and people.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Under Currents

Zane Bigelow's family is living a lie. On the outside his parents, Dr. Graham Bigelow and his socially prominent wife Eliza, seem to be attentive to their children and pillars of the community. To their son and daughter they are abusive monsters. In Under Currents by Nora Roberts, the situation comes to a boil one night when Zane and his father face off.

Fortunately for Zane, he has been diligently documenting the abuse and the local police chief believes him. Graham and Eliza are sentenced to jail and Zane and Britt, his sister, move in with their aunt Emily and try to forget their brutal childhood.

Fast forward nearly 20 years when Zane is now an attorney, living in Raleigh. He decides it's time to return to his North Carolina roots and he moves back to Lakeview where his sister, aunt, uncle and many other relatives still live.

He meets an energetic whirlwind landscape artist named Darby McCray who has dazzled everyone she meets with her talents. But Darby also has a secret and she doesn't want to share it with anyone so she keeps relationships at arms length. Despite her better judgment, she begins to enjoy Zane's company.

Zane is beginning to build his life in Lakeview into something meaningful, but in the back of his mind, he knows his father is soon to be released from prison. It would be unthinkable for Graham or Eliza to return to Lakeview, but the shadow still haunts Zane.

An breathtakingly suspenseful novel that will leave you sitting on the edge of your chair by the time you finish it.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for a fair review. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Tide and Punishment

It's Christmastime in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Everly Swan is hoping her home town of Charm will live up to its name. In Tide and Punishment by Bree Baker, it's not long before trouble breaks out. (Tide and Punishment will be released by Poisoned Pen Press on September 24.)

Unfortunately Mother Nature has a surprise for the Charmers - snow and ice. That doesn't dampen Everly's spirits at her Sun, Sand and Tea Cafe, until her Great-Aunt Fran makes her mayoral bid announcement. No one is really surprised by it, but as she is making her announcement, Mayor Dunfree preempts her announcement by making his own.

He has decided to run again and with a co-mayor Mary Grace Chatsworth, Everly's hated enemy. Everyone is aghast at Mayor Dunfree's announcement and his lack of manners in his timing, but no one expects much from him.

A little while later, he is dead in the snow behind the shop with Great-Aunt Fran standing over him with a bloody gnome in her hands. Everly is positive her Great-Aunt didn't kill the mayor, but the mayor's wife wants Detective Grady Hays to arrest Fran. As much as Hays warns Everly to stay out of the investigation, she cannot let her Great Aunt wind up in jail at Christmas.

Everly's investigation leads her to a long-ago hiking death, many more shattered gnomes and someone with huge anger issues.

Another terrific addition to this charming series.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Murder List

Almost lawyer Rachel North is married to superstar defense attorney Jack Kirkland and she dreams of being his partner in their own law firm, finding justice for the accused. First though she needs to complete an internship and she has chosen Jack's most hated rival, Assistant District Attorney Martha Gardiner as her new mentor.

In The Murder List by Hank Phillippi Ryan this internship creates strife in the family. Rachel knows how much Jack hates to lose cases, so she decides to go "undercover" and work as an intern with Gardiner to find her weaknesses and relay them back to Jack. Such a smart idea, she thinks, guaranteed to lead to success in the future. (The Murder List will be released by Tom Doherty Associates on August 20.)

The story is told in two time periods. The first is when Rachel worked as Chief of Staff for Senate President Tom Rafferty including her experience on a murder case jury in which Jack was the defense attorney and the second portion covers her time as an intern with Gardiner.

Of course Gardiner knows who Rachel is and pointedly makes comments about Jack, just to keep Rachel on her toes. She drags her to the site of a murder on the first day of Rachel's internship and uses every opportunity to keep her unbalanced.

Finally after several weeks, Rachel feels she is making strides with Gardiner and she relaxes into her own scheme of finding weaknesses. But there's a cat and mouse game going on with Rachel thinking she is outsmarting Gardiner. But who is the cat and who is the mouse?

A twisting, turning, spin you on your head plot that then freaks you out with the shocking ending. Don't miss this book. It is Hank Phillippi Ryan at her most devious.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Death by the Bay

Being at the right place at the right time sets Door County Sheriff Dave Cubiak on the path to solving a suspicious death. When the ninety-three year old founder of the prestigious Institute for Progressive Medicine, Dr. Melk, falls dead at a conference, it appears to be from a heart attack. In Death by the Bay by Patricia Skalka, Dave questions those in attendance including Dr, Harlan Sage, director of the institute, and a writer named Linda Kiel.

Linda Kiel is writing an approved book on the Institute highlighting the positive achievements. She has spent many hours with Dr. Melk discussing the Institute and Dave wants to hear what she has to say. As he leads her to a separate conference room, he hears someone crying "Mi hermano. Mi hermano gemelo." He discovers one of the housekeepers looking with shocked awe at a photograph on the wall that is part of the doctor's presentation.

The housekeeper believes the photo is of her younger brother who had Down's Syndrome and has been missing for many years. He was taken away from his family in Mexico by a doctor who said he could cure him and would bring him back. That never happened.

As Dave continues to dig, the trail leads him to a family in Door County who is also missing a sibling. Because she is elderly and may not be remembering details correctly, most people think Florence Fadim is fantasizing about her missing sister Margaret. Through repeated conversations with her, Dave learns the sister also may have been taken by doctors hoping to cure her polio.

When another death occurs, Dave doubles down on his investigation and learns many disturbing secrets about Dr. Melk's past and his present activities at the Institute for Progressive Medicine. Long buried secrets and the Institute's dark past lead Dave on a search or the truth. A shocking tale of medical abuse and how the quest for notoriety and fame distorts the moral compass.

Disclosure: I received this book from the author for a fair review. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Interview with Diane Kelly

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My newest book is Paw of the Jungle, which releases the Tuesday just before Thanksgiving. I have
Diane Kelly and Reggie
published 26 novels and novellas to date. It’s been a busy and fun few years!

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
My two primary characters, Police Officer Megan Luz and her K-9 partner Brigit, came to me while I was attending the Citizens Police Academy in my then hometown of Mansfield, Texas. At the Academy, officers taught us the ins and outs of police work. At one of the classes, a K-9 handler performed a demonstration with his dog, Rocket. Much to the surprise of the class, Rocket spun around a few times and deposited some droppings at our feet before bounding off to do a building search. I knew right then that I had to write about these amazing handlers and their skilled, and sometimes amusing, dogs.

I lived near Fort Worth, Texas, at the time I started writing the series, and I decided to set the book there because the city has a fun western flavor. Fort Worth’s nickname is “Cowtown” because it was a major stop on the old Chisholm Trail back in the cattle drive days. It’s hung on to its cowboy identity, and the Stockyards area north of the city is a popular tourist attraction. The Will Rogers Center hosts lots of horse shows each year, too.

What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy?
What I enjoy most about the author’s lifestyle is that every day is take-your-pet-to-work day! I love working from home, surrounded by my dogs and cats. I often work outside in a comfy lawn chair on my deck, and I dress in casual T-shirts and cozy yoga pants (shoes and bra optional). The hardest thing about working from home is the lack of human camaraderie, but I make up for it through my involvement in local writing groups.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
My characters are their own unique selves, though I do borrow personality traits and quirks from real-life people sometimes. They often reflect some of my values and opinions, but not always. It wouldn’t be much fun to be myself in my stories, too. Part of the excitement of writing is getting to play at being someone else who does something entirely different for a living, looks at the world differently, and has fun, sometimes dangerous, adventures.

How do you get yourself out of a writing rut?
I rarely have major ruts, thought there are days when the words flow much more easily than others. When I need to think a scene through, I do something mindless, like walking my dogs or dishes or laundry. My muse often visits me on long road trips, too, and whispers ideas in my ear when I’m in the shower or on my exercise bike. Getting away from the computer is the key to getting out of a rut!

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
If my Paw Enforcement series was made into a movie, America Ferrera (from Ugly Betty and Superstore) would be the perfect person to play Megan Luz. She’s just the right blend of strong, smart, and sexy, but with some vulnerabilities, too.

Who is your favorite author?
I have so many favorite contemporary authors, but I’d have to say my favorite author of all time is Erma Bombeck. Her humor columns taught me so much—how to laugh at life’s irritations, people’s quirks, and even my own imperfections. I read her columns in the newspaper growing up, and I consider her to be one of my early influences and inspirations.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
The five people I would invite to a dinner party would be:
Leonard da Vinci – He was so smart and talented in many different ways, and so forward-thinking. He’d be interesting to talk to!
Carol Burnett – I loved her sketch comedy show when I was young, and I consider her to be one of my comedic influences. She wasn’t afraid to make a fool of herself for a laugh. Neither am I!
Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley – She was a former slave and skilled seamstress who supported her “master’s” extended family through her hard work and talents, and eventually bought her freedom and that of her son. She overcame so much—forced separation from her family, beatings, rape and resulting pregnancy—to become a sought-after dressmaker in Washington, D.C. and confidante to Mary Todd Lincoln. She spent some time in the town where I now live, Hillsborough, North Carolina. She wrote a great book about her experiences called Behind the Scenes, Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. I’m so intrigued by a woman who was so intelligent and determined, and who made so much of herself from such difficult beginnings.
Laura Ingalls Wilder – I loved her books as a young girl, and enjoyed the TV show as well. I’d love to talk writing with her!
My husband – If I left him out of a party with these other four fascinating people, he might file for divorce!

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
I love animals and nature, so probably something in habitat conversation, or maybe I’d be a park ranger, dog trainer, or wildlife rehabilitator.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Lowcountry Boomerang

It's not just another day at the beach for Liz Talbot and her husband Nate Andrews when they learn TV star Darius DeAndre Baker is leaving Main Street USA and returning to Stella Maris. In Lowcountry Boomerang, by Susan M. Boyer, this should be cause for celebration. (Lowcountry Boomerang will be released by Henery Press on September 3.)

But before Darius settles in his high school sweetheart Trina Lynn Causby is found dead, and the police think he is the murderer. Liz had been friends with Darius in high school and she knows he's no killer so she and Nate set out to find the real killer. Colleen, Liz's ghost friend, has bonded herself to Darius because she is afraid for his life.

With so-called eyewitnesses seeing Darius shove a white bag into the trash near the scene of the crime, the police are in a rush to close the case. Liz and Nate take it upon themselves to causally interview the eyewitnesses and clarify their stories.

The case gets complicated as Darius' three -wives turn up, positive he still loves each of them. Also adding to the drama is that fact that Trina Lynn, a well know TV news personality, allegedly had a child with Darius when she was in high school. No one, not even Darius had heard a whisper of this story until now, when Trina Lynn is dead.

Trina Lynn lead a complicated life and was involved with two men; one married and the other a co-worker. There was, in fact, a very public scene with the wife of her married suitor, and Liz and Nate believe there could be other suspects besides Darius.

Another stellar mystery from our friends on Stella Maris. Dripping with Southern charm, but plenty of sass.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for a fair review. 

Monday, August 12, 2019

Fatal Cajun Festival

Now that Maggie Crozat and Bo Durand are officially engaged, everyone in Pelican wants to know when they will set the date. In Fatal Cajun Festival by Ellen Byron, Maggie and her family are too busy with festival season to think about planning a wedding. (Fatal Cajun Festival will be released on September 10 by Crooked Lane Books.)

When Grandmere decides Pelican needs a festival to precede the New Orlean's Jazz & Heritage Festival, she ropes Maggie into helping her organize Cajun Country Live! The featured artist is none other than hometown-girl-makes good Tammy Barker. Tammy has hit the bigtime as the winner of a TV singing competition, but to many in Pelican, she is still the diva she always thought she was. This includes Maggie's best friend Gaynell Bourgeois, who went to high school with Tammy.

Tammy's band is a collection of offbeat, weirdos who seem to have been randomly selected at the last minute to make the event. When a member of this motley crew is found murdered, Gaynell is suspected and Tammy seems to want to make it a permanent "vacation." There's always been bad blood between Tammy and Gaynell and it comes to a boil when Tammy sabotages Gaynell and the Gator Girls' audition for Jazz Fest.

Maggie decides the best way to discover information is to go undercover as a "newly-unengaged" woman and flirt with the band members. When another band member is seriously injured, Bo thinks it's about time for Maggie to become his fiancee again and stay out of trouble.

The flavor of this book is so Louisiana Cajun and you can almost smell the delicious food simmering on the stove and hear the foot-stomping music in the background. I love these books; they always make me miss New Orleans and everything Cajun.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for a fair review. 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Murder's No Votive Confidence

Nantucket Island and candlemaking seem to go together. In Murder's No Votive Confidence by Christin Brecher, candlemaker Stella Wright is excited to be part of Jessica Sterling's candle-themed wedding. Using candles as the main theme would do wonders for Stella's small business, Wick & Flame.

Among the specially planned candles is a two-foot tall Unity Candle decorated to resemble the bride's gown. Everyone is excited about the wedding, but there is one small sad note, Jessica's father had died recently and she was hoping her long-estranged uncle would walk her down the aisle.

For some reason, Jessica's mother is highly opposed to the idea, but she want everything to be perfect for her daughter's wedding, so she relents. The animosity between them is electric and not in a good way. Jessica's mother is not that enamored with her future son-in-law either, but Jessica has been wildly optimistic and happy.

The day before the wedding, Stella drops in to look over her candle decorations and discovers the body of Uncle Simon. Someone has put out his lights with Stella's exquisite Unity Candle, but the wedding is to go on as planned. Stella has her work cut out for her because she needs to create another gorgeous Unity Candle and hope superstitious brides-to-be clients don't start canceling orders.

When the bartender at the hotel is arrested, Stella is sure he is innocent and the police have rushed to make an arrest. She decides to join forces with a charming reporter and a local detective in hopes of solving the crime before her business folds.

A charming setting and an intrepid shop owner brings her delightfully-scented candles to life in this new series.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for a fair review.