Saturday, October 29, 2016

Murder, Mystery and Astrology

As if it is not difficult enough to make a living as a astrologer in San Francisco, it becomes more difficult when Julia Bonnati makes an enemy of Reverend Roy of the Prophet's Tabernacle. In The Madness of Mercury, A Zodiac Mystery by Connie di Marco, Julie's troubles begin when she answers a question in her AskZodia newspaper column and calls out false prophets and people who martyr themselves. 

Soon she is receiving threatening emails and phone hangups. When a demonstration breaks out in front of her home and a brick is thrown through her window, Julia fears she may have started something she cannot finish. She also believes there is a leak at the newspaper because the emails are coming to an account only her editor knows and her home address is a secret as well. To add to the mayhem, her friend Cheryl's shop, The Mystic Eye, is firebombed. Julia decides to take herself away from the fray for a few days. 

She has been reading charts for a client named Dorothy who has been dealing with her elderly aunts
Evandra and Eunice and her estranged husband. Dorothy asks Julia to arrange a seance for her aunt so they can try to contact her long dead relative. Before the seance Julia learns that Eunice and her caregiver Gudrun do not plan to attend the seance because Gudrun is a follower of Reverend Roy. This sets alarm bells ringing for Julia, especially after they discover Eunice and Gudrun missing.

Julia sets out to rescue Eunice before she signs over her property and money to the Reverend. What transpires is a hair raising plan to rescue Eunice at the Reverend's compound. 

This is the first book in The Zodiac Mystery series and I look forward to the next one

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Cat in the Stacks

If you read my review of the Southern Sisters Mysteries, you might be wondering were Diesel came from.  In Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda James, we meet Charlie Harris, Athena College archivist and part-time librarian. Diesel, his Maine coon cat, is as much a part of the library as the rare books. When Charlie speaks to him, he almost seems to understand what is being said.

In Arsenic and Old Books Mayor Long brings Charlie four volumes of a diary written by Rachel Afton Long from the 1820s through the Civil War and beyond. With the mayor's son Beck running for the Senate, she wants the public to know about the long-storied history of the Long family, and she feels the journals will help promote their successes. Charlie is skeptical especially as Beck's opponent is a member of the Singletary family, historic rivals of the Long family.

Two people vie for exclusive rights to the diaries: history professor Marie Steverton and journalist
Kelly Grimes. Before either of them can present their case, the volumes are stolen. Also missing from the College's archives is a memoir written by Rachel's granddaughter-in-law Angeline McCarthy Long. Is this a simple coincidence or is there something more going one?

When Marie is killed by a hit and run driver, Charlie discovers the missing diaries in his office once again. To further complicate matters, the mayor returns with an as yet undiscovered additional volume of Rachel Long's dairies.

As Charlie reads through the diaries, he discovers some contradictory entries and seeks to find the answers to the puzzle.

History has always fascinated me, and Southern history is so much more important to the families than those of us from the North. History, family secrets and intrigue going back several decades leads to murder and disgrace. I enjoyed this book very much,

The first book in the series is Murder Past Due

Monday, October 24, 2016

Good Buy Girls Mystery

The Good Buy Girls are at it again in Buried in Bargains by Josie Belle. Maggie has purchased a thrift store and expanded her thrifty actions to the store. She and her pals are getting ready for big time holiday thrift shopping including purchasing gift wrap at 75% off.

I really wanted to like these books as I have read the first three, but sometimes Maggie gets on my nerves. For a woman in her 40s she acts very much like a petulant teenager, especially around Sheriff Sam Collins. She and Sam have a history from their high school days, but now that he is back in St. Stanley, Virginia, he is trying to win Maggie over.

When Maggie witnesses a disturbing scene between her friend's husband Michael Claramotta and his newly hired assistant Diane Jenkins, the next day brings more complications. Michael is found unconscious along the body of Diane in the Deli. Michael is taken to the hospital and doesn't remember anything about the incident. This brings Maggie and her friends into the investigation. They discover no background material on Diane nor a job application. It is as if Diane did not exist.

I found the way this plot unraveled very contrived and the killer stood out like a sore thumb. I'm surprised it took the Good Buy Girls so long to figure it out. I have the fourth book but I am not sure I will read it.

The first book in the series is 50% Off Murder.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Silver Six

Six crafty seniors live in a farmhouse owned by Sherry Mae Cutler in Lilyvale, Arkansas. Occasionally there are small explosions and smoke bombs in the house. This leads police detective Eric Shoar to contact Sherry Mae's niece LesLee Stanton "Nixy" Nix to intercede. In Nancy Haddock's Basket Case, Nixy nearly winds up as a basket case.

Nixy arrives in Lilyvale unsure what she will find. Are the seniors able to take care of themselves? Do they have enough money? How can she help them when she is only planning to be in town for a short period of time?

What she finds is six sprightly, fully engaged crafty seniors in the midst of a folk art craft fair on the property. She also finds an extremely rude bully trying to threaten local residents into selling their land. Jill Elsman has been tormenting locals especially Sherry Mae and telling them she will get their property no matter what she has to do.

This raises Nixy hackles and she begins to do some research on the properties and on Elsman herself.
Not to be outdone, the Silver Six use their local connections to rally the entire town against selling any land to the odious Elsman. When Nixy finds Elsman dead in her family's cemetery with evidence pointing to her aunt Sherry Mae, she knows this is not true and seeks to find the real killer.

Using all their resources and, of course, the assistance of handsome police detective Eric Skoar, Nixy and friends solve the mystery of why Elsman wants the land and who killed her.

Great characterizations of seniors as viable, capable citizens and creative contributors. I look forward to the next book Paint the Town Dead.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Double Header

I don't usually review two books by the same author, but I was so impressed by the storylines in these I had to add both. Brooklyn Bones and Brooklyn Graves are two well-crafted, beautifully drawn stories with a mystery woven throughout. The books written by Triss Stein feature Erica Donato, a PhD candidate, historian and mother of a 15-year-old daughter.

While renovating her Brooklyn home, a skeleton of a young girl is discovered behind the wall. The skeleton is dressed in a tied-dyed shirt, has a teddy bear and The Doors albums surrounding her, plus a brick that says RIP 9/16/72. Erica tries to unravel what happened in her home while she is completing her historical research on her neighborhood.

Her journey takes her to the halls of wealth and power in New York and to a long hidden secret that
threatens her life and her daughter's.

In Brooklyn Graves Erica is roped into assisting a visiting scholar who fancies himself the foremost expert on Tiffany glass. Their journey leads them to a famous Brooklyn cemetery known for its Tiffany glass mausoleums. Murder, stolen windows and a tiny connection to the past leads Erica to a surprising solution.

These books are beautifully written and the plots reveal themselves in carefully crafted words. The historical research is fascinating and adds so much depth and flavor to the books.

I recommend them and I look forward to the next in the series.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Roberta Isleib/Lucy Burdette Interview

Interview with Roberta Isleib/Lucy Burdette

How many books have you published?
I've had 15 mysteries published in three series. (Follow the link for the books)

Under what names do you publish?
The golf lovers and advice column series were written as Roberta Isleib (my real name.) For the Key West food critic series, I used a pen name, Lucy Burdette (my grandmother's name.)

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
Ah, plotting--this is the hardest part of writing for me! I do write a synopsis of the book at the beginning, but it always turns out to be sketchy. I have more ideas as I write and as the characters bloom and grow. And I brainstorm with other writers when I get stuck!

How do you keep continuity on backstory? For example I read a book recently where the lead character said she had three brothers, several books later, she was an only child.
Oh boy, I should do better with this but I'm not exquisitely organized. It helps to have a manuscript I can search on the computer. And I have at times begged readers to help me remember facts I've forgotten​. And an editor and copy editor are invaluable too, especially if they've worked on all of the books and have the overview of the setting and characters.​ I did ​inadvertently ​change one character's name from the first Key West book to the second and noticed the blooper​ way too late. So far, no one has complained...

Who is your favorite author?
It's way to hard to choose one favorite writer--there are so many wonderful books in the world. For cozy mysteries, of course I enjoy the authors on and; for traditional mysteries, I love the other writers on and also William Kent Krueger and Stephen White; for food and memoir, Diana Abu-Jaber; for women's fiction, Kristin Higgins, Lolly Winston, Barbara O'Neal, Maddie Dawson. And my sister, Susan Cerulean, is a fierce and lyrical nature writer.
Do you write with pen and paper or a computer?
I write almost entirely with a computer, but I always have a notebook with me so I don't waste time if I'm waiting. Also, if I'm researching for a Key West book, I take the notebook with me so I can jot important details down when I'm out in the world.
Thanks for hosting me on Map Your Mystery! I hope your readers will enjoy the Key West series! 
xo Lucy

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Too Many Detectives

If you grew up in a costume shop and spent your adult life as a magician's assistant, I guess I could understand the desire to wear a different costume everyday. That's what Margo Tamblyn does when she returns to Proper City, Nevada, after her father has a heart attack. As he recovers, she takes over managing their costume shop, Disguise DeLimit. In a Disguise to Die For Diane Vallere introduces readers to her quirky character.

First up is the detective-themed birthday party for spoiled rich guy Blitz Manners (yep, that's his name). Blitz wants 40 detective costumes and he wants them quickly. Margo does her best to assemble the lot from Nancy Drew to Colombo to Sherlock Holmes to the Hardy Boys and beyond. All seems to be going well at the party until Margo discovers her old family friend and surrogate mother, Ebony, holding a bloody knife standing over the very dead body of Blitz Manners.

For Margo the number one priority is clearing Ebony's name, but that turns out to be harder than she thinks. First Ebony's car is vandalized, then Ebony disappears and
finally Margo finds an envelope with $20,000 near Ebony's car. Blitz had said he would pay Ebony that much money for her catering services, but she claims she did not receive it.

Meanwhile Margo's father Jerry and his friend decide to go on a trip down Route 66 somewhere near Area 51 to check out some alien costumes from a sci-fi fan. He had been looking forward to this trip for a long time and the heart attack does not slow him down. Managing the store and searching for clues takes most of Margo's time.

It soon becomes apparent that someone is trying to frame Ebony. When she is arrested, Margo doubles down and tries to find the real murderer.

There's a subplot with a Asian American man named Tak Hoshiyama and some nefarious dealings in the district attorney's office, which I expect to hear more about in the next book. I'm hoping there is another in this series as I found Margo goofy, but fun.

For more on these books click here

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Shadowy Mystery

Author Laurel Peterson weaves a tangled web in Shadow Notes. Clara Montague dreams her mother is in terrible danger and returns home to Connecticut after being away for 15 years. Clara has always been intuitive and she failed to act on her intuition in which she saw her father's death many years before. She refuses to let that happen again to her mother.

When her mother's therapist and former lover Hugh Woodward is murdered, Constance is arrested for murder. Clara discovers a second set of notes Hugh made called Shadow Notes and steals them from Hugh's home. Before she can read them, they are snatched from her hands.

Constance won't talk about the case or her past, so Clara decides to investigate by asking questions of her mother's friends (and enemies). No one wants to discuss the trauma from Constance's past and Clara becomes more and more frustrated.

Old friend and now enemy Mary Ellen Winters implies that
Constance has some secrets in her past she might not want revealed. This just forces Clara to take risks and dig deeper. The more she digs, the tighter the weave becomes not offering her any insight into what has been going on,

Shadow Notes is not really a cozy mystery, but more a psychological mystery. When a loose thread appears and Clara pulls it, the weave tightens leaving Clara frustrated and the reader trying to figure out what is painstakingly being revealed.

Although Shadow Notes is not the usual type of mystery I read, I enjoyed it and the end is neatly packaged. For other books by this author, click here.

Friday, October 7, 2016

A Closet Can be a Killer

Irene Seligman plans to open an upscale consignment shop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but instead finds the body of a murdered woman in the closet. In Paula Paul's A Killer Closet, this won't be the first body Irene discovers.

Dragged back from her job as an assistant DA in New York by her demanding mother, Adelle, Irene is determined to settle her mother and return to New York. When she finds her mother in a reduced state after the death of her fifth (or sixth) husband, Irene is not sure how many, she decides to stay.

The murder victim is a friend of Adelle's named Loraine Sellers. There are whispers about an affair with someone in government, but Irene just wants to open her consignment shop. When the police take Irene to the police station as "a person of interest" in the murder, she knows this is not going to be a run-of-the-mill visit to the police station. She demands a lawyer and before she knows it, she has hired P.J. Bailey. He says he knows who the killer is.

Another murder and the kidnapping of her mother makes this case personal for Irene and she and P.J. set out to find the killer and kidnapper. Irene is not sure she trusts P.J. but she follows his plan and the plot twists and turns until a surprising and unexpected conclusion.

I enjoyed this book because of all the unexpected plot twists. I'm only sorry that this does not appear to be a series in the making. For this book, click here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ellen Byron Interview

Interview with Ellen Byron

How many books have you published?
Two now. BODY IN THE BAYOU is the second in my Cajun Country Mystery series. But I have four published plays, over 200 published magazine articles, and a ton of produced television credits.

Under what names do you publish? 
Ellen Byron - stayin' consistent!

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go? 
I create what I like to call a fluid plot. The basics are all there, but it changes and grows or shrinks as I go. I feel like I need a general guideline to follow, but allow a lot of room to move. Yet I find at the end of a manuscript, a lot of what I laid out in the beginning totally sticks.

How do you keep continuity on backstory? For example I read a book recently where the lead character said she had three brothers, several books later, she was an only child. 
Oh man, that's tough! I'm starting to run into it myself. A lot of it is in my head, which is not the safest place for it. I do a lot of double-checking with previous books (just finished my third ms in the series), and keep running notes on characters I add. There are people who you can pay to keep track of your series, but I don't have that kind of money right now. But maybe if people keep buying my books???? ;-)

Who is your favorite author? 
Emily Bronte and Agatha Christie are two favorites. I also love Louise Penny.
Editor's note: Love Louise Penny's book as well, but alas, they take place in Canada, so not eligible for MapYourMystery yet!

Do you write with pen and paper or a computer?
I'll scribble notes anywhere and everywhere, with whatever's on hand. I even do voice memoes. But I definitely write with a computer.

Checkout the review for Plantation Shudders and Body on the Bayou

Monday, October 3, 2016

Murder in a Lighthouse

Murder at Five Finger Light by Sue Henry features Iditarod racer Jessie Arnold and her Alaska State Trooper boyfriend Alex Jensen. Though not technically a cozy mystery, it is close enough, plus it is set in Alaska.

Jessie is resting her knee after a small accident so her Iditarod training has been curtailed. Back in the picture is Alex Jensen after a slight break in their relationship. They are invited to spend some time with friends Laurie Trevino and Jim Beal who are the proud owners of the Five Finger Lighthouse on a small island in the Inside Passage. Although Alex cannot attend, Jessie decides to go and join the work party helping to restore the lighthouse.

While Jessie waits in Petersburg for her boat ride to the island the next morning, she encounters a young woman who seems terrified and says she is being stalked. Jessie empathizes with Karen and invites her to join the work party.

Once on the island, Jessie and the rest of the work party enthusiastically jump into the project. The
next day while exploring the island, Jessie and some of the work party discover a body. When they return to the lighthouse to call for help, they discover the phone line cut, their cell phones missing and Jim's boat scuttled. Is someone on the island not who he seems?

Before long Jessie and the others in the work party find themselves in a dangerous position with almost no hope of rescue. The exciting conclusion and the twists and turns in the plot make this an exciting read.

The first book in the series is Murder on the Iditarod Trail.