Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wisteria Tearoom Mysteries

Ellen Rosing has expended much hard work to open her Wisteria Tearoom in A Fatal Twist of Lemon by Patrice Greenwood, but a sudden death throws the Thank You tea party into turmoil. Ellen finds Sylvia Carruthers sprawled on the floor with a huge lemon agate necklace tightly wrapped around her throat.

It's obvious Sylvia is dead, but who could have killed her. Only Thank You guests and staff were in the tearoom. Enter Detective Antonio Aragon, a police officer with a chip on his shoulder and plenty of suspicion about the murder. Would his investigation disrupt her Grand Opening?

With concerns that the murder will put a damper on attendance at the Grand Opening and on other days, Ellen decides to do an interview with a local TV station. Naturally the publicity doesn't hurt her business, but it still doesn't answer the question of who killed Sylvia and why? Was her death related to her position as president of the Santa Fe Preservation Trust? Is someone selling historic property without the
approval of the Preservation Trust?

Ellen also wonders what the issue is with Detective Aragon, or "Detective Arrogant", as she has taken to calling him. Why is so hostile to Ellen? Adding to her worries, Ellen notices strange lights on in the tearoom and dancing crystal chandeliers. Is there any truth to the rumor that the house is haunted by Captain Dusenberry's ghost or is someone trying to prank her?  She knows no ghost killed Sylvia, but she is no closer to solving the case or the mystery of Tony Aragon's dislike for her.

When Ellen finds B&B owner Katie under the dining room table where the murder took place, she is concerned and worried that Katie might be guilty. Katie claims to be looking for her earring, but is she looking for something that might incriminate her in the murder?

Too many suspects and not enough evidence leaves Ellen frustrated and at odds with Aragon. When the finally put their heads together, they are able to discover a motive and solve the case.

I enjoyed this book as I am a huge fan of tearoom mysteries. I hope there are others planned for this series. There are in fact others. Click here to see them.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Interview with Wendi Corsi Staub

Interview with Wendy Corsi Staub

How many books have you published
 I’ve published more than 80 books under my own name and various pseudonyms.

Under what names do you publish?
 I’m best known for the mystery/suspense novels I write under my own name, Wendy Corsi Staub, and for the women’s fiction I write under my pseudonym Wendy Markham. For other genres and in foreign markets, I’ve also borrowed my sons’ first names, publishing as Wendy Morgan and Wendy Brody. In addition, I’ve co-written or ghostwritten novels for a number of well-known authors and celebrities. A few I can share are Ed Koch, Fabio, and Francine Pascal, but there are a couple household names I’m contractually forbidden to share.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
I always start by writing the first chapter or two, usually with very little sense of where a book is going. I allow the characters to take shape and the plot begins to gel in an organic way. Like many authors, I’m no fan of outlining. At this stage in my career, fortunately, I can provide a very bare-boned synopsis. I know it’s clichĂ©, but I think of it as an electronic map. I have a starting point and a general idea of where I’m going, but it’s very broad, a big picture scenario. As I write the book, I zoom in gradually, and certainly take a few unforeseen detours.

How do you promote your books?
 Fortunately, both my current publishers, HarperCollins and Crooked Lane, have fantastic publicity teams who set up media interviews—television, radio, print, and blogs like this one—and book tours with every release. That means I spend a lot of time on the road. I set out on an ongoing 50-state book tour about a decade ago with my husband and sons, and have signed in all but a couple of states. In fact, there’s only one state I haven’t visited—Wyoming. We were a few minutes from the border a couple of years ago, and thought about crossing over just to say we’d been there, but figured we’d get back sooner or later. It’s turning out to be much, much later! I also promote via social media, mainly via Facebook, where I have personal and author pages and am part of the Crooked Lane authors’ Cozy CafĂ© page. I’m on Twitter, too, but it’s not nearly as engaging for me. I have a monthly contest at Writerspace, and I send out a monthly newsletter—readers can sign up via the homepage link on my website at   

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.
It’s difficult to keep continuity, but crucial. You might be writing series books a year or more apart, but some readers will plow through them in a day, and they will be much quicker to pick up on inconsistencies than the author herself. With two current series—my Mundy’s Landing trilogy for Harper and my Lily Dale Mysteries for Crooked Lane—I find it extra-challenging. In terms of setting, I had a hand-drawn map of my fictional Mundy’s Landing so that I could envision what was where. My younger son came into my office one day, saw it, and told me he could create one using graphic design software. It was intended for my use only, but I sent it to my editor along with the manuscript, and Harper’s art department loved it so much they printed it in the book, giving my son credit.  Lily Dale is a real place, so Google Maps helps, though I’ve taken certain liberties. 

Who is your favorite author?
I have countless favorite authors, and many happen to be close personal friends, so to avoid leaving someone out, I’ll share the one I’ve loved longest. Laura Ingalls Wilder was my role model from the time I read my first Little House book at nine years old. I was so obsessed that my parents drove me from my New York hometown all the way to Missouri to visit the museum and home where she’d written my most beloved book series. In adulthood, I returned with my husband and sons, and also visited her homes in South Dakota and Kansas. I was even a guest speaker at the first-ever Laurapalooza festival in Mankato, Minnesota a few years back.

Do you write with pen and paper or a computer?
I write on a computer—my Mac desktop with a gigantic screen that seems to make the experience up close and personal—I also have a Macbook Air, but as a creature of habit, I don’t do well writing fresh material on the road. I use travel days to edit, or do interviews like this one, which I’m writing in the car in the Catskills. (Yes, my husband is at the wheel—I’m an expert multi-tasker, but even I draw the line there!)

Checkout a review for Wendy Corsi Staub's book here 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Crime Solving Cat

Coming back home to Cruz, California, after her mother's death, Nora Charles hopes life operating a sandwich shop will be less stressful than her days as a crime reporter for a Chicago newspaper. Meow If It's Murder by T.C. LoTempio is a clever book with a smart cat as sidekick. 

Nora Charles and her cat named Nick (yes like The Thin Man) are thrust into an intriguing mystery, investigating a death that was treated as an accident. But all is not what it seems and the more Nora digs, the more complicated it becomes. Nick, the smartest cat you have ever seen, even contributes to solving the case. 

Nora seems content with preparing sandwiches with unique names such as The Lady Gaga Special, The Michael Buble Burger and Miss Marple's Magnificent Chef's Salad. But when Louis Blondell asks her to write an article for his online magazine called Noir, she decides to investigate the death of Lola Grainger, a friend of her mother's and the wife of wealthy businessman. Labeled as an accidental drowning, Nora refuses to believe it. She knows Lola was deathly afraid of water and would never take a dinghy out alone.

Nora begins her quest to find the truth when she discovers that Nick, the cat, was previously owned by a private investigator Nick Atkins, who has been investigating the Grainger case. She tracks down the PI's office and finds that Atkins has been missing for six weeks. The plot thickens as the old time writers used to say.

Nora finds a way onto the carefully-controlled Grainger headquarters and snoops around looking for clues. What she finds complicates the mystery. With her clue-hunting cat, Nora solves the mystery of Mrs. Grainger's death, but not the whereabouts of PI Nick Atkins.

I'm sure there is more to come in the next books. Find out here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Raging Rapids

White water rafting is something I would never, ever do. First because I get seasick, second because I know I would fall out of the raft. But I have to say Beth Groundwater's Deadly Currents nearly changed my mind. The action is fast and furious on the Upper Arkansas River in Colorado and river ranger Mandy Tanner is right in the thick of it.

The opening scene involves the daring river rescue of two raft riders and made my stomach churn as much as the river. A woman is saved; a man is dead. When the widow of the dead man threatens to file a lawsuit against Mandy's uncle Bill, the owner of the rafting company involved, Mandy seeks to discover what caused the death.

River rights and big resort developers clash over a land deal, and Tom King, the dead man, was in the thick of things. Wife, mistress, son, environmentalists and business rivals all come into the frame as suspects when murder is the verdict. In the meantime Mandy's uncle's business is threatened, not just by the lawsuit, but by diminishing profits. Torn between her love for the river
ranger job with the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area and being a tour guide for her uncle, Mandy aims to solve the murder. When another death occurs, Mandy is thrown into turmoil.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the descriptions of raft riding. I'm not sure I actually knew what was going on with the rafting terms, but it was an exciting ride and I am glad I had the chance to tag along.

The next book in this series is Wicked Eddies and I have already started it.You can too by clicking here.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Skull By Any Other Name

Professor Molly Barda finds herself hoping to stay under the radar and get tenure at Mahina State University in Hawaii in The Musubi Murder by Frankie Bow. That is not to be as Molly is dragged into a search for fast-food entrepreneur Jimmy Tanaka, the most hated man in Hawaii and a large donor to the college.

Tanaka owns a chair of fast-food restaurants that serve a Hawaii favorite Musubi - a cube of sticky rice topped with a slice of fried Spam, and then wrapped in a strip of dried seaweed. From a distance, musubis look a lot like oversized pieces of sushi. Not sure how much play that snack would get in the Continental USA, but it is apparently huge in Hawaii. When Tanaka fails to show up for a reception at the college in his honor and a prop skull appears in the middle of a fruit tray, Molly is tasked to find Tanaka.

The dysfunctional family that is Molly's department and her students makes me shudder. One example is that Molly's students submit plagiarized papers to the college's plagiarizing checker; another is the dean of her college is under a cloud. It's no wonder Molly doesn't know which way to turn. Appearing on the scene is Donnie Gonsalves, Tanaka's biggest competitor, and too-good-to-be true suitor, who also has a son in the plagiarizing group from Molly's class.

Molly is lead on a a merry chase to find Tanaka or his body and the conclusion of the book leaves a very unsettling and disturbing feeling for the reader. I'm curious if there will be others in this series.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

California Restaurant Scene

Sally Solari gives up her law practice to return home to help her father run the family restaurant in Leslie Karst's Dying for a Taste. Managing the front of the house is hardly a challenging job, but when Sally's aunt Letta is found murdered in her own restaurant, Sally is thrust into managing Gauguin and dealing with her father. With the sous chef under suspicion, the mission complicates itself.

Sally must clear her chef to keep the restaurant open, but what she learns about her somewhat secretive aunt leads her to more secrets. As Sally is reviewing the books for her aunt's restaurant she stumbles across an old photo of a woman and two threatening letters addressed to her aunt.

The letters threaten violence if Letta does not stop using factory-farmed chicken and other mass produced meats. Sally also finds invoices for fresh produce ordered from Bolinas Farm, 100 miles from Santa Cruz. What is behind this odd behavior? Who is the woman in the photo and what is her connection to Letta?

When Javier is arrested, Sally steps up her investigation to clear him so he can remain as chef of Gauguin and she can appease her father by continuing to work at Solari.

I enjoyed this book and the characters very much although I worry about a young woman in her 30s experience hot flashes and symptoms of menopause, as Sally does. The solution leads the reader in different directions before it is solved and I enjoyed the chase.

The next book in the series is A Measure of Murder.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Old Bones Tell A Tale

In Bed, Breakfast and Bones, author Carolyn L. Dean introduces her character Amanda Graham. Amanda has inherited The Ravenswood Inn from her aunt and uncle and leaps at the chance to move to the Oregon coast and reopen the Inn.

Renovations are in full swing when the mayor of the town announces the area has been rezoned to residential, and therefore, the Inn cannot rent rooms. Amanda is dumbfounded but matters take a turn for the worse when a body is found in her garden. Worse still her aunt and uncle left Ravenswood Cove in the dark of night eight years earlier in a big hurry. Now dead they are not around to answer questions about how the body wound up in the garden. 

The body is identified as Emmett Johnson and he disappeared eight years ago - on the same night her aunt and uncle left town. With the twin mission of finding out who killed Emmett Johnson and saving the Inn, Amanda sets out to discover more about her aunt and uncle.  
At the City Hall Amanda is shocked to find a newly-filed rezoning order, evoking any previous variance on the Inn. At the bottom of the page, she finds the mayor's signature, dated the same day Amanda met her. There's something fishy about that, but why did the mayor sign the rezoning order? Who is the foreign looking older neighbor woman Amanda has seen sneaking into the apple orchard and taking apples? And who killed Emmett Johnson and buried him in The Ravenswood Inn garden?

When Amanda discovers the mayor owns large acreage along the cove and the Crescent Crown
Company, one of the biggest retirement community developers in the area, is interested in the land, Amanda begins to suspect an ulterior motive in the rezoning. But why would the mayor kill Emmett? Or is that a totally separate issue? 

Amanda believes the way to thwart the mayor's plan to keep tourists away from Ravenswood Cove is to welcome them. She becomes a one woman Chamber of Commerce with lots of creative ideas to draw tourists. But there's still the mystery of the body in the garden.

I enjoyed the search for the killer and Amanda is a resourceful, clever heroine. Detective James Landon looks like a love interest in future books. Hope there are others in the series.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Polyester Saves the Day

Polyester Monroe is the perfect name for someone who owns  a fabric store. Literally born in the polyester section of her aunt's Land of One Thousand Fabrics store, Poly inherits the store when her uncle dies. Now in Crushed Velvet, author Diane Vallere continues Poly's effort to reopen the store now named Material Girl.

As an aside, if I were born in a fabric store with so many luxurious fabrics, I would have thought silk, satin, velvet, taffeta or some ritzier name would work, but that's me.

While Poly is working hard to prepare for the opening of her store, she awaits the delivery of an order of a special blend of velvet and polyester. Her friend Genevieve Girard, owner of Tea Totalers, sent her husband Phil with their delivery van to retrieve the fabric. When it arrives and they are unloading, they discover Phil dead in the back -  buried under the bolts of fabric with a spilled container of tea nearby.

When the police arrest Genevieve, Poly and her friend mechanic Charlie try to find the real murderer.
And she's still prepping the store for opening day. By day she searches for the murderer, by night Poly sews bright, colorful place mats, curtains, pillow covers and more to spruce up Tea Totalers and promote the use of fabric and color to brighten your home. Hopefully Genevieve will be released to run the shop again.

As Phil's scheming life is discovered, Poly believes there are other suspects and she digs deeper to try to clear her friend. As her reopening draws nearer, Poly's biggest concern is her new sign, which because of weather, municipal requirements and murder slows down the installation.

Poly is a fiend with a sewing machine and she knocks off pillows, placemats and more and as a non-sewer, I am so jealous of the ease with which she works. With all these distractions, Poly manages to solve the murder and open her store with lots of fanfare.

I found Crushed Velvet a fun, easy read and recommend it. It is the second book in the series. Book #1 is entitled Suede to Rest.

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Shakespeare in the Catskills Mystery

Elizabeth Duncan's Untimely Death is the first in the Shakespeare in the Catskills Mysteries.  I loved the concept of Shakespeare plays in the resort area, so I was looking forward to reading this book.

Charlotte Fairfax is a one-woman wardrobe and costume department at the Jacobs Grand Hotel in the Catskills. She's a wizard with generating costumes on a small budget and loves what she does. Hotel owner Harry Jacobs sends his nephew Aaron to work part-time with Charlotte. He seems flighty and uninterested at first, but turns out to be an excellent assistant.

With Romeo and Juliet as their current performance. Charlotte must deal with the demanding Juliet - Lauren Richmond and an over age troublesome actor Brian Prentice. Charlotte is sure there will be fireworks with these lead characters.

When Charlotte finds Lauren in her bedroom in physical distress, Lauren is rushed to the hospital.
While she recovers, Charlotte and Aaron continue trying to fit the remaining cast in the hopes that Lauren will recover. She does recover, and returns to the cast only to be be found stabbed to death back stage shortly after her return to the cast.

There is no shortage of suspects: Aaron was out of sight for a long period of time, Harry Jacobs had a special interest in Lauren and Brian Prentice seemed to know Lauren from some other meeting. Charlotte fears the death with derail the much-needed season at the Jacobs Grand Hotel and seeks to solve the mystery herself.

I enjoyed this book although I felt the murderer was pretty obvious. I still look forward to the next in the series Ill Met by Murder. Click here it find it. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Murder in the Desert

Exciting, well told mystery featuring prickly Josie Tucker. Josie is a food critic for a local newspaper. One problem - she can't eat anything without upsetting her stomach - kind of rough bring a food critic who can't eat. Maybe that's why she has a rather sharp edge to her. Complicating her life is unrequited love for her best friend and doctor Drew Cole. In The Bride Wore Dead by E.M. Kaplan, Josie is sent to Arizona to investigate the sudden death of Leann Ash just a few short days after her wedding. 

Leann and her new husband  Peter Williams head off to the Castle Ranch, a secluded spa in Arizona for their honeymoon. The Williams family is one of Boston's elite families and the sons, Peter and Michael, behave badly, but everyone excuses them because of their heritage. When Leann suddenly dies of an allergic reaction, the mother of the groom asks Josie to investigate. When she boldly states, "I think my son killed her", she  orders Josie to meet with a private investigator she has hired. Josie is stunned, but as she was planning to visit the ranch herself, she reluctantly says yes.

Before heading to the resort, Josie meets with private investigator Obregon who gives her a list of
people to interview. He reminds her to be careful and unobtrusive because their money and power keeps  the Williams family above the law.  Once at the resort, Josie takes advantage of the nutritional consultation and tries to get her stomach in order while she investigates.   

What she finds leads her into peril and Leann may not be the first woman murdered. The unexpected ending will shock you and take your breath away. I cannot wait to read the next Josie Tucker.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Gigi Pandian Interview

Interview with Gigi Pandian 

How many books have you published? 
I have six mystery novels out, plus six locked-room mystery short stories and one novella. There are four books so far in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series about a historian who travels the world finding historical treasures related to India’s colonial history, and two books so far in the Accidental Alchemist mystery series about a centuries-old female alchemist and her impish gargoyle sidekick who was accidentally brought to life by a French stage magician. (Amazon link to authors page)

Under what names do you publish?
I’m Gigi Pandian for all of my fiction that’s been published to date.

 Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go? 
I do both. I love twisty puzzle plot mysteries, so I love to craft an intricate plot ahead of time, with fair play clues and fun twists. I begin with that outline, but then my characters steer me in directions that are different than I anticipated, which is a lot of fun.

How do you promote your books? 
I was diagnosed with breast cancer right after my 36th birthday, shortly before becoming a published author. I decided publishing should be fun, because I didn’t want to waste whatever time I had left on earth worrying about things beyond my control. There’s so much an author can do to promote a book, but that would be a full-time job on its own, so I decided to pick by what I enjoy. I create promotional items that bring me joy, such as Accidental Alchemist mugs and an original Jaya Jones illustration by a graphic novelist friend, and I attend mystery conventions where I have a blast chatting with mystery fans. So far I’m four years cancer-free, and doing a pretty good job not sweating the small stuff. 

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. 
I keep an electronic character bible to keep track of facts about characters. It’s not fool-proof, though. I think I’m missing one of the multiple languages my character Lane Peters speaks!

Who is your favorite author? 
Elizabeth Peters is the author who made me want to become a writer. Her Vicky Bliss art historian mysteries are what inspired my Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries. One of my biggest thrills as a published author has been that reviewers frequently liken my books to hers.

 Do you write with pen and paper or a computer? 
I start on paper before moving to a computer, and whenever I’m stuck I go back to paper. I’m convinced that a pen in my hand activates a different part of my brain. Especially if I’m writing in a paper notebook on a train. 

You can find a review for the first Jaya Jones book here 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Spiritualism in New York

Awakening Lily Dale #1 by Wendy Corsi Staub was out of my usual cozy mystery range, but it is an interesting story with the promise of more mystery. After her mother's accidental death Calla Delaney leaves Florida and goes to stay with eccentric grandmother Odelia in a western New York town. Lily Dale is known for being the world's largest center for the religion of spiritualism and Odelia is a medium. She sees people at her home on a regular basis, trying to help them with their problems.

Although Calla is only planning to stay with her grandmother for the summer until her father finds a new place for them to live in California, she soon finds herself seeing and feeling things she is unsure of. When more strange things begin to happen to Calla, she wonders if she has inherited some of the spiritual qualities. She begins to understand why her mother never talked about her life in Lily Dale and why she knows so little about her grandmother and her powers. 

Calla also begins to feel as if her mother's death might not have been an accident and she strives to figure out what could possibly have happened. A recurring nightmare wakes her every night at 3:17 am and she is baffled by this event. In her head she hears "The only way to we'll learn the true is to dredge the lake..." What does that mean? When she asks Odelia evades the question, but tells her not to go into the lake for any reason.

Did Calla's mother die accidentally or was she murdered? Is Calla psychic and who is the girl she keeps seeing in the yard?
I enjoyed this book and look forward to the finding the answers to some of the questions next in the series.