Saturday, December 30, 2017

Books for 2018

This past year has been a busy one for I have read 262 books and tried to review as many of them as I could. I'm looking forward to my reading list for 2018.

Some of the books I will be reading in 2018 include A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn, Another Bites the Crust by Ellie Alexander, The Case of the Unsuitable Suitor by Cathy Ace, Scones and Scoundrels by Molly MacRae, Curses, Boiled Again by Shari Randall, A Whisper of Bones by Ellen Hart, Playing with Bonbon Fire by Dorothy St. James, Death al Fresco by Leslie Karst and many more. If you have a favorite, please let me know and I will try to read and review it.

Happy New Year to everyone and my hopes for a peaceful, prosperous and healthy 2108.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Casket Cache

A unique setting to a mystery. Very few books have a funeral director as their lead character but Casket Cache by Janice J. Richardson gives readers a glimpse at a different world. 

Jennifer Spencer inherits her uncle’s funeral home in the Niagara Region of Canada. When she is out in a blizzard on a coroner's call with her assistant Peter, Jennifer finds her first day as the owner of Spencer Funeral Home very different from her days in a corporate funeral home in Toronto. 

In the next few days, she deals with the stillborn death of a baby, an imminent death and an accidental death, all of which she handles with grace and sympathy. Some people are born to be in the funeral business, and it appears Jennifer is one of them.

When a cache of money is found in a casket after an attempted break-in at the funeral home, Jennifer
finds herself in the middle of a mystery. The police are suspicious of Jennifer and wonder if she knew about the money. She decides to disregard their advice to let them investigate and seeks to find the owner of the money.

Meanwhile the first death turns out to be the murder of the pit boss at the local casino. Is there a connection between the death and the found money? Jennifer aims to find out.

Casket Cache offers a glimpse into an industry many of us use, but under trying circumstances. This book offers an interesting insight into the funeral business without the trauma of being directly involved. I look forward to reading the others in the series. .

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Pilfered Promises

It's always fascinating to read historical fiction and see how we have advanced technology-wise. In M. Louisa Locke's Pilfered Promises, telephones and elevators are new to the country in the 1880s. Annie Dawson and her lawyer husband Nate are asked to investigate systematic theft in the Silver Strike Bazaar, a large department store in San Francisco.

Annie, a trained accountant, leaps at the chance to be involved. Nate is not so sure. The inner workings of the Silver Strike Bazaar are nothing like today's stores. Cash girls are assigned to take the money from clerks and run it upstairs to the cashiers, then bring a paid receipt back. This system seems fraught with peril. It's easy to see how some money could go missing.

The owner, Mr. Livingston, is concerned about the money losses, but there also seems to be merchandise loss - too much just to be  credited to shoplifting. In fact some larger pieces and furs are among the missing.

He invites Annie to review the books and speak with various department managers to get a feel for
the operation. She discovers the merchandise losses have been taking place in the last four months.

The store is an interesting place overall. Ready made garments are actually made on site; custom made garments are designed by Mrs. Fournier under the supervision of Madame Villeneuve, the French wife of Livingston's partner, and also made on site. Everything from children's underwear to ladies ball gowns. It's an amazing place.

While Annie tours the receiving department, she notices how disorganized and chaotic is it with wagon loads of merchandise arriving and being unloaded at the same time. As she digs deeper, she discovers the pattern.

When Mrs. Fournier is found dead on the stairwell, Annie and Nate try to make the connection to the missing merchandise, especially when they learn about Mrs. Fournier's past.

The solution to the murder is bittersweet, but Annie and Nate manage to solve the missing merchandise dilemma. Pilfered Promises is an fascinating glimpse into the past.

For a review of Book 1 in the series, Maids of Misfortune, click here

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Fatal Vacancy

Life as a hotel manager is never easy, but add a Hollywood premiere movie party and Maisie Swenson's life is turned upside down. In Fatal Vacancy by CeeCee James, a stunt goes terribly wrong at the party. The worst news is it isn't the stuntman who is dead, it's David Beck, the director of the movie.

Naturally there are plenty of suspects - the stuntman who knew David "when," the leading lady Lulu Montgomery, saver of the rainforest or is it a front? Factor in the handsome leading man Brendan Tucker and the stuntman no one likes. Mix in the rising star rumored to be having an affair with the director and blend in the ex-wife who is thought to be the brains behind the movies and wait for the explosion.

Sure enough on the night of the premiere all eyes are focused on the dark figure on roof of the hotel wearing the mask of the Dragon Rider, the hero of the movie. Using two giant suction cups the figure makes his way down the wall of the building. At first he appears to lose control, dangling by one hand, then he regains control only to plunge silently to the red carpet below.

To the shock of those in attendance, the dead body is identified as the director David Beck, not the stuntman. 

When Maisie's police officer friend Kristi Bentley is accused in the newspapers of being star-struck during the accident, Maisie knows this is untrue and unfair. She plunges into the investigation.

The more she digs the more suspects she finds. Not many people were fans of Director David Beck.

At this time of year when it is freezing and below zero up north, it's always fun to read a book that takes place in some warm climate. Fatal Vacancy provides you with a warm location and a tricky mystery.

For an review of another CeeCee James mystery, click here. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The 12 Slays of Christmas

As hard as it is to return from terrific vacation, I did read some interesting books while I was away. The 12 Slays of Christmas by various authors was one of them.

If you love short mystery stories or novellas, this is the book for you. In A View to a Chill by Larissa Reinhart, she uses both of her lead characters, Cherry Tucker and Maize Albright in a mystery that brings the Hollywood movie star turned detective Maize to Halo, Georgia, to search for the missing granddaughter of Celia Fowler. For the past five years Mrs. Fowler has asked Nash Security Solutions to find Krystal, but it has been a wild goose chase each year. All Nash can tell Mrs. Fowler is Krystal is not dead or in prison.

Maize decides she can't let the older woman suffer at Christmas so she takes herself to Halo. In Halo Cherry Tucker is not feeling the holiday spirit. She is suffering from the flu and doesn't want to be around anyone, especially her eight-months pregnant sister. While lying in bed lazily gazing across the way to the window of her neighbor Mrs. Boyes, she notices a reindeer strangling Mrs.Boyes. Sure she is hallucinating, she falls back to sleep.

There's much confusion and bringing Cherry and Maize together was a great idea.

Another story in The 12 Slays of Christmas is The Worst Noel by Amy Reade. Lilly loves the holidays, but Black Friday at her Juniper Junction Jewels is bound to be busy. As she approaches her store, she sees every shop owners' nightmare - the door to the business is open.  Worse yet, there is a body on the floor.  Nothing worse for a business than to be closed during the Black Friday weekend.

Lilly struggles with finding the killer so she can open her shop and The Worst Noel leads her in many directions.

I enjoyed the other stories and they are a good read anytime of the year.

Could not resist a photo from my cruise to Cuba and Key West (met Lucy Burdette, more to come on that). My husband and I in a 1954 BelAir Chevy with 3 million miles on it.

Friday, December 15, 2017

On Vacation

I'd like to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy New Year and a general Happy Holidays. Lucky me, I will spending a week on The Empress of the Seas visiting Key West and Havana, Cuba.

MapYourMystery will be back on December 26.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras

After reading The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras by J. Michael Orenduff, I cannot make up my mind about how I feel towards Hubert Schuze. On one hand, his intrepid use of geometry to remove a pot from a museum makes good use of math, but on the other hand, he did steal the pot.

When an unsavory character asks Hubert to steal a 1000-year-old Mogollon pot from a museum in Albuquerque, Hubie knows if he steals it he will have crossed the line. He seems okay with digging up pots from public land, but he draws a fine line between stealing from museums and his exploits. 

Returning from his reconnaissance mission to the museum, he discovers a Bureau of Land Management agent in his shop. Guvelly, the agent accuses him of stealing a Mogollon pot, but Hubie knows he was only looking at it in the museum. After some confusion, the agent explains it is a Mogollon water jug from Bandelier National Monument. Not guilty, Hubie says as the agent leaves and gives him a card with his hotel room number on it.

When the agent turns up dead the next day, Hubie is worried he will be a suspect, particularly
because of his interest in the other pot. Worried now that the man who offered him the money to steal the pot might be an informer, Hubie decides to investigate on his own. When he sees a living agent Guvelly walking in town, Hubie is stumped and especially worried. 

Hubie is surrounded by some quirky characters including Miss Gladys Claiborne, who provides him with her homemade concoctions of almost inedible meals, his drinking buddy Susannah, Emilio Sanchez and his wife Consuela who helped raise Hubie as a child and his nephew Tristan, a computer genius. The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras is an entertaining book and Hubie is, at times, a more sympathetic character with an odd set of principles.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Larissa Reinhart Interview

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
Thanks so much for the interview, Christine! My latest story is A View to a Chill, a Cherry Tucker and Maizie Albright interconnected mystery novella. It appeared in the anthology, The 12 Slays of Christmas. Because 12 Slays was a fundraiser just during December, I’ll have it available as a standalone, sometime in January. My most recent full-length novel was the second in the Maizie Albright Star Detective series, 16 Millimeters. 16 released this past October, and I’ll have the third book in the series, NC-17, out in 2018.

To date, I have six novels and three novellas in the Cherry Tucker series and two novels and one novella in the Maizie Albright Star Detective series. However, one novella (A View to a Chill) is shared by both characters. :)

I also have a short story that’s only available to my newsletter subscribers, Pig’N a Poke, that’s from my Finley Goodhart series. She’s a character I’m developing and I just today decided to give Finley another go with another short story. Her background is complicated, and the stories require some planning because she’s a con-artist gone good (sort-of), which I find harder to write than murder for some reason.

How did you become interested in writing?
I’ve always been interested. Like literally. At the age of four I was writing lists of words and by first grade writing stories. I sold little magazines to our neighbors in second grade and won a national writing contest by the Girl Scouts in fourth or fifth grade. I’ve never not had stories going through my head if that makes sense. I just love storytelling.

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’m always curious about this with other writers. I think they must not sleep. My day is pretty boring on the surface. I’ve got two girls — one in middle school, who plays on a travel club volleyball team, and one in high school, who’s in orchestra and studies more than I thought humanly possible (for a teenager) — and my day revolves around them. When I’m on deadline, I’m up before dawn to get time in before they’re up. After I get them off to school, which starts around 6:30 and ends around 8 am, I say hello to my friends on Facebook, check email, etc. My plan is to begin writing at 9 am, which means turning off the internetsywebs. Sometimes that works, sometimes that happens closer to 11 am, depending if I’m in the middle of a release.

By 11, I feel like I need a nap, but I soldier on until 11:30 when my husband comes home for lunch. Around 12:30, I make another plan of attack, but feel a greater need for a nap. I fool around with not napping and trying to write until 3 pm, when I succumb to a nap until the first child arrives home at 3:30. Then I become a chauffeur until somewhere between 6 and 8 pm. Somewhere in there or after is dinner. Around 9 pm, my husband and I try to watch a TV show but are interrupted by children needing things. Or the dog needing things. We try again around 10 pm. At 11, I give up to read in bed until around midnight. And the whole thing starts again the next day.

And the weekends…it’s all volleyball starting at 4 am when we have to be God knows where at 7 am. Unless it’s not volleyball and then it’s laundry and cleaning toilets.

I love my life, but it’s not all wine and roses. Unless it’s Mother’s Day. And now that we’re in volleyball, it’s not even on Mother’s Day.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
I try to plot every time I write, thinking it’ll be more efficient, but it just doesn’t work for me. I figure out the crime and inciting event that kicks things off. I know my main characters and their background. At that point, I get antsy to write. I think out things better as I’m writing. So usually, I pretty much wing it.

Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
I never use real people. Occasionally my places are real. Like when Cherry Tucker went to The Varsity because I know she’d love The Varsity and she was in Atlanta anyway (that was in Hijack in Abstract). And of course, the state of Georgia is real. (I’d hope you’d know that. lol).

But I like fictional places and people. Particularly when you’re murdering people (fictionally). I’ve used characteristics I’ve seen in people. But those are generalized, not a particular person. However, I’ve used real names. With my fan group, The Mystery Minions, I have a contest with each book where I use one of their names for a character I’ve already written. That’s fun.

Who is your favorite author?
You’re seriously asking me that? Can’t I have five? Maybe Elmore Leonard. It depends on the day and what I feel like reading. I like all kinds of genres, so that’s a really hard question.

How do you promote your books?
I have a wonderful group of readers. Many of them are my friends on Facebook, on my Facebook fan page The Mystery Minions, or follow my newsletter. I try to keep them up to date on what’s going on and reward them with early sneak peeks and drawings. They’re hugely supportive. I also have a review team, and they read and review my advanced readers. I’m not much of a marketer, so that’s who I rely on the most.

I also have a lot of writer friends, so we cross-promote, which I love because I can reward my readers with books from authors who might be new to them, and I can meet new readers through my writing friends. I don’t do a lot of ads or anything like that, mostly because I’ve not been successful at those.

I have no background in business (I was once a high school teacher), so my marketing motto has always been “be friendly and nice.” This is also my personal motto.

What is the title of your latest book and when will it be published?
NC-17 is the next in the Maizie Albright Star Detective series, and I’m hoping to have that out in late spring. I just started a short story for Valentine’s Day (if I can get it ready before then), A Cupid’s Con Caper. And I’m working on a romantic comedy called Prom Night that will be part of a trilogy, although I have no idea when those will be published.

Thanks so much for the interview! That was fun.
For a review of Portrait of a Dead Guy, click here

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The House of Unexpected Sisters

With a lack of active cases Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi are happy to investigate a case brought to them by Mr. Polopetsi. In The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith, it seems a woman has been wrongfully dismissed from her job and Mma Ramotswe, always one to believe in fair play, decides to investigate.

When they meet Mma Charity and hear her story, they feel they might be able to help her. Once Mma Makutsi learns Mma Charity is a graduate of the Botswana Secretarial College, she is sure she is innocent. Mma Ramotswe needs more evidence.

Mma Ramotswe decides to visit Mma Charity's mother, Mma Lentswe, in hopes of learning more about her daughter. She learns from Mma Lentswe that Charity can, in fact, be rude sometimes and has a bit of a temper. Saddened by this lack of confidence in her daughter by her mother, Mma Ramotswe feels the story of being dismissed for being rude to a customer, might, in fact, be true. Sorry to have to disappoint Mma Makutsi and Mr. Polopetsi, she plans to return to Gaborone.

Before Precious leaves Mma Lentswe remarks that she has seen a picture of Mma Ramotswe's father and another one of a young woman with the same last name. She rummages through her scrapbooks and finds the photo. It is of a nurse named Mingie Ramotswe who is about a year older than Mma Ramotswe. With this troubling news, Precious is determined to find the nurse with the same last name.

I have always enjoyed this series, but sometimes there is not much going on and it is a bit talky. That's how this book was but as always the story is sweet and the characters are so ethical.

For a review of another book in the series, Precious and Grace, click here. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Ginger Snapped

When Piper Prescott sees realtor Shirley Randolph flirting with Police Chief Wyatt McBride, she briefly regrets her missed chance with him. But Piper is deeply involved in her mother-in-law's bridal shower so she forgets about Wyatt. In Ginger Snapped by Gail Oust soon finds herself involved in a murder investigation revolving around him.

Shirley is trying to help Mavis Gray sell her hardware store to a couple from Syracuse, New York, but the small town of Brandywine Creek doesn't seem right for them. Ever the optimist, Shirley keeps plugging away, but before long she is found dead, naked in a pond on Chief McBride's property.

At first the police think it might have been suicide, but Piper knows that cannot be the case. Shirley was vivacious and even if she killed herself, she would never have done it this way.

When no water is discovered in her lungs, the verdict changes to murder and Wyatt is suspended
from the case. It falls into the inept hands of Beau Tucker who figures if Wyatt is charged, his path to chief is wide open. Piper doesn't want that to happen, so she throws herself into the investigation.

As Piper digs deeper, her shop is burglarized. When she is nearly driven off the road one night, she knows she is close to solving the case.

One issue seemingly solving itself is her attraction to Wyatt. Much to her surprise, he reciprocates. Now all she has to do is clear his name.

The spice shop setting is the perfect place for local gossip. It seems everyone stops in at some time or other to share a tidbit of information. Piper is a smart character as well, and although her ex-husband CJ and his dizty blond wife Amber are annoying, Piper deals with them very well.

For a review of another book in the series, Cinnamon Toasted click here.