Friday, September 22, 2017

Center Stage

Magnolia Steele believes she is at the top of game when she is cast in the starring role in Fireflies at Dawn on Broadway. But before her second curtain call, she is involved in a full blown brawl on stage during the show.

Forced to flee, she returns home to Franklin, Tennessee, after a 10-year absence. In Center Stage by Denise Grover Swank nothing prepares Magnolia for her return home. Haunted by terrifying events she cannot remember 10 years ago when she ran away from home right after her high school graduation, Magnolia never thought she would return home.

When she shows up at home, her mother's reaction is cold and angry, but she takes her in. Right from the start, her mother pushes her to work for the family catering company in the background. Although her mother doesn't want Maggie as a waitress at a country singer Luke Powell's party, she is thrust into it.

Unfortunately Magnolia encounter a sleazy agent Max Goodwin from her past and immediately
engages in a very public argument with him. When Magnolia discovers him dead in a compromising position hours later, she knows she will be in the spotlight, but not on a Broadway stage.

In addition she is beginning to remember bits of what happened the night she ran away and the growing horror of the event torments her. When she receives a text message reading, "Welcome home, Magnolia. I've been waiting" she is terrified.

Along with her newly discovered sister-in-law Belinda, Magnolia tries to solve the crime and keep herself out of jail. Belinda a hyper-enthusiastic wedding planner jumps into solving the case with both feet.

This is a tense mystery with another mystery yet to follow as Center Stage does not solve Magnolia's recurring nightmare. I am looking forward to the next book to see where it leads.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Cajun Christmas Killing

Another fun caper starring Maggie Crozat and her lively family by Ellen Byron. In A Cajun Christmas Killing the Crozats are in the thick of building the traditional structure for the bonfires along the river. Over the years the bonfires had evolved into a tradition of lighting the way for the Cajun Santa Claus, Papa Noel, on Christmas Eve.

There's trouble at the family plantation. A hostile takeover by outside investors to purchase Uncle Tig's Preferred Property Collection unfortunately includes Crozat. The investment company is owned by Steve Harmon and coincidentally as the offer [s being crafted, bad reviews of the various properties begin to appear on the internet.

On the homefront, a strange unaccompanied man is a guest at the B&B and he is constantly taking notes. Maggie worries he might be a blogger and is planning to write negative reviews of the B&B.  Maggie tries to devise a plan to help her Uncle Tig, but runs across the very Steve Harmon
and he turns out to be her random guest, Don Baker. After a confrontation with just about everyone in the B&B and Maggie's boyfriend Detective Bo Durand, Steve Harmon is found dead in the men's parlor of Doucet Plantation.

Complicating matters is Maggie's ex-boyfriend from New York, in Pelican to try to reconcile. The Crozat family has a lot on their plate including Ty's trip to the hospital.

In charge of the investigation is Maggie's arch nemesis Rufus Durand and there are no end of suspects including the entire Crozat family and Bo.
 
A Cajun Christmas Killing is chock full of Louisiana flavor and plenty of bayou characters and traditions to make you feel as if you are there with them. Love these books. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Interview with Ellie Alexander

How many books have you published?
I write multiple mystery series. Death On Tap will be my eleventh published book. (It will be released on October 3.) I still have to pinch myself sometimes when I think about how many books I have floating around in the world.

How did you become interested in writing?
I was an avid reader as a child. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. My mom would take me and my brother to the library once a week and I would return home with a stack of books that I would devour in a matter of days. Reading really ignited my desire to write. I loved being able to travel to distance places through the pages of a book. Throughout my early and middle childhood, I wrote tons of stories, including my first mystery which I wrote in second grade. It was titled The House on the Haunted Hill and had plenty of spooky cobwebs and creepy sounds—like footsteps in a creaky attic—but absolutely no plot!

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 an early riser and a creature of habit. After a leisurely cup of coffee (or two or three cups of coffee) I start writing first thing. I write 2,000 words every day. Sometimes that might take me a few hours and sometimes it takes me the entire day. As soon as I hit my word count I get outside and take a long walk. I find the best ideas and breakthroughs tend to happen when I’m not in front of the computer screen. Walking helps clear my head and make space for new ideas. When I’m working on a manuscript I don’t edit it at all as I go. I keep a notebook next to my laptop and will jot down things that I know I want to change later, but I don’t do any actual editing. Once I have a complete first draft I print it out, let it sit for a few weeks, and then come back to it with fresh eyes to start editing and incorporating any changes I noted during the initial drafting process.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
Historically I’ve always plotted the entire book. One of the best things about mysteries, in my opinion, is that the reader has the same opportunity as the sleuth to piece together the clues and figure out whodunit. Outlining helps give me a direction and flesh out each suspect and what they are lying about and hiding. That in turn embeds red herrings into the plot. If every character is lying about something, then the odds are good that the reader will suspect each of them at some point. However, since Death On Tap is my eleventh book I decided to toss out my outline and try writing without a road map. I think sometimes you have to shake things up. It was a very different experience to write without a solid plan, but I think was a good challenge for me and pushed me out of my comfort zone.

Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
Yes. The settings in all of my books are real places. I want the reader to feel completely immersed into my character’s world, and I love getting to write about places that are near and dear to my heart. My Bakeshop Mysteries are set in Ashland, Oregon which is home to the world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It is not uncommon to see someone wandering around Ashland’s quaint streets
wearing a court jester costume. That might not be true if I set the book somewhere else. Death On Tap is set in the Bavarian town of Leavenworth, Washington, where every building is designed to resemble a German alpine village. Walking through Leavenworth’s downtown feels as if you’re in Europe with window boxes overflowing with bright red geraniums, the smell of pretzels and bratwurst, and the sounds of polka music. When I’m working on a book I visit the actual location and spend a big chunk of time listening, observing, and taking notes and pictures. I use that real-world material when I’m writing, to infuse life into the setting.

Who is your favorite author?
Can I only name one? There are so many authors I love! If I have to pick one I would say Maud Hart Lovelace. She wrote my most favorite childhood series, Betsy, Tacy, and Tib.

How do you promote your books?
I’m very active on social media. I try to engage with readers online and do a ton of fun giveaways related to my books. I also do launch parties and book talks where I bring in local businesses and create an experience around the book. It’s been a great way to connect with the community and highlight interesting venues and products. It’s also wonderful to bring book lovers together (either in a real or virtual space) because we share a common interest—reading. In a deep way, I feel like the world needs more of this right now. Politics and disagreements fade away when readers come together to discuss their mutual love of books.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Christmas Market and Bead Store

Two short novellas popped up on my I-Pad this week and I was in the mood for a quick read. One is Menace at the Christmas Market by Sara Rosett. This is part of the Murder on Location series.

Kate Sharp finds herself living in England scouting locations for a Jane Austen documentary series. Leaving sunny California for rainy England is never fun, but when her boyfriend flies to the Canary Islands to spend the holidays with his parents, she wistfully thinks of home.

Struggling to find a gift for the boyfriend, her friend Louise encourages Kate to visit the Christmas Market in Upper Benning. Louise is anxious to see author Harriet Hayden's Christmas booth at the market for an autographed copy of her latest book. But Harriet is not at the market and Louise is very concerned. She believes Harriet would never miss the market. A neighbor tells them Harriet decided to stay in in the Canary Islands for a month., but something about that doesn't ring true to Kate and Louise. They set out to learn what has happened to Harriet.

The second book is Bead of Doubt by Tonya Kappes. When newly-divorced Holly Harper decides to open The Beaded Dragonfly her cadre of divorced divas rally round to help her open the store. With their help the store shapes up beautifully and Holly has plans to schedule some classes. With her ex-husband still hanging around, she hopes business will pick up so he will lose interest in pestering her.

When an outrageously dressed woman appears at the shop one morning and introduces herself as Marlene Dietrich, no one is convinced. She shows Holly an enormous yellow stone and asks her to make something to disguise the gem in a beaded bracelet. Holly is intrigued but a little concerned about the gem and its strange and secretive owner.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Death at the Seaside

When Kate Shackleton arrives in Whitby for a holiday and a visit with an old school friend Alma Turner, she doesn't think she will be a suspect in a murder. In Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody, Kate takes a leisurely stroll through town and notices the jeweler where she and her late husband bought their engagement and wedding rings.

Startled and sentimental by the memories she conjures up, she is drawn to the display in the window and notices a bracelet set in jet beads and pearls - perfect for Felicity. She waits patiently at the jewelry counter, but no one appears to assist her.

Puzzled why the jewelry store would be open with no one actually attending it, she taps on the connecting door to the back room. Much to her surprise, she finds a body with jet beads strewn around him. Unwilling to leave the body in an unattended store, she finally realizes she must call the police.

When she reports the crime to Sgt. Garvin, he doesn't want to let her out of his sights so he follows
her back to the shop. With his accusatory questions, Kate is sure she will be arrested. He releases her with a caution not to leave town.

Kate seeks out her friend and discovers her in deep anxiety. It seems Felicity has disappears and before she left she pawned a watch at J. Phillips High Class Jewellers, the same place Kate found the body. Also missing is Mr. Phillips' boat, the Doram, and young Brendan Webb.

When Sgt. Garvin finds Kate on the hillside in the middle of the night whistling and using her flashlight, her arrests her for signaling to smugglers. She tries to explain she is searching for Alma, but winds up spending the night in jail.

The plot takes many twists and turns involving smuggling, a missing father, injured actor and unrequited love - all rolled into a carefully crafted mystery.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Study in Scarlet Women

To my knowledge Sherlock Holmes does not have a sister named Charlotte who consults with him on cases. Apparently the good people of London aren't aware of that and Charlotte is able to find clients and solve cases with this ruse.

In A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas, Charlotte Holmes takes drastic measures when her father reneges on his promise to pay for her education. Taking matters into her own hands, Charlotte decides to dally with Roger Shrewsbury only to be discovered flagrante delicto by his wife and several of her women friends.

As a "fallen" women Charlotte's parents are determined to keep her cloistered in the country, but Charlotte is not to be denied. She flees to London and tries to find a legitimate way to support herself.

When Charlotte meets Mrs. Jebediah, a woman with means and maybe a few secrets, they decide to
form their own inquiry agency using an ailing Sherlock Holmes as their partner. They become involved in several cases including the death of Lady Shrewsbury, Roger's mother, and several others that Charlotte deduces may be connected.

Through an old family contact, Charlotte has the ear of a Scotland Yard detective who is enamored with his peripheral association with the great Sherlock Holmes in solving these crimes. 

A Study in Scarlet Women is a terrific parody of the Sherlock Holmes books. Charlotte has all his deductive skills without his annoying quirks.

I do hope there is a second book in this series. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sleep Like a Baby

Having a new baby take most of your energy, but add the flu and an absent husband and you have an exhausted new mother. In Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris, Roe Teagarden wonders how to care for the baby when she herself is too ill to get out of bed.

Roe's mother hires a part-time nurse, Virginia Mitchell, to help while Robin is at Bouchercon. One night Roe wakes up to hear a crying Sophie and no response from Virginia. She struggles out of bed and searches the house, but doesn't find Virginia. With her half-brother Phillip, Roe begins to search outside only to find a body, but it is not Virginia, but a woman who stalked Robin and nearly killed Roe in the past.

This book was crammed with little incidents that complicated the plot. Roe's stepfather has a heart attack, Robin is identified as the figure in the yard on the night the woman was killed, neighbors don't like all the activity at Roe's house, a former felony helps install the security system at her house and Virginia is found in an unlikely place.

Although I have enjoyed the Roe Teagarden book in the past, this one was not one of my favorites. An unsatisfying conclusion and way too much time spent on breastfeeding colored my enjoyment of this book.

If you are interested in other Roe Teagarden books, try the earlier ones in the series. I enjoyed those much more than this one.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Essence of Malice

Amory and Milo Ames are enjoying their visit to Lake Como, Italy, when they receive a troubling letter from Milo's former nanny. This sends them rushing to Paris in The Essence of Malice by Ashley Weaver.

Madame Nanette has been caring for the child of her employer Helios Belander, one of France's premier parfumiers. His perfumes are "Worthy of Queens," as the slogan goes. Helios was a man who met with success throughout his illustrious career, and introduced his children to the business.

Cecile, the eldest daughter, has the "nose" as they say in the perfume business. Her father has allowed her to serve as his right hand man, but it is son Anton he wants to run the company.

Anton, on the other hand, has no nose for the business and only wants to become richer. The third child Michel is a dilettante.

When Helios dies unexpectedly after a small plane crash and before the launch of his highly-anticipated new perfume, the medical report lists the cause as heart
failure, but Nanette is not convinced. She coaxes Milo and Amory into looking into the death. To get closer to the family Amory tells Cecile she wants a perfume especially blended for her and she agrees, giving Amory a chance to investigate.

With millions at stake and the reputation of one of the best parfumiers in France in limbo, Amory and Milo dig deeper and find the heirs vying against each other for control of the company. Could one of them have killed their father? What about the lovely, young wife? Where does she fit in?

What Amory and Milo uncovers leads to a dangerous revelation that might endanger their own lives.

As someone who would love to have a specially-blended perfume made for her, I very much enjoyed this book. The behind the scenes of scent creation was enlightening. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Murder Games

When I read the synopsis of Murder Games by Elisabeth Crabtree, I thought the book would be right up my alley. But as I plodded through the convoluted and confusing plot, I wasn't so sure.

Grace Holliday and her boyfriend Kyle Drake are lucky enough to secure two tickets to the Murder Manor, a mansion associated with the Crystal Palace Hotel. They find themselves in the middle of the "murder mystery" and are happy to play their parts.

That is until someone turns up dead. The other characters include a married couple, Jerry and Caroline Knight; Laura and her sister Sabrina; Mis Ivy, the mistress of the house and her butler Rupert and several other characters. Some of them take their roles very seriously and refuse to be called by their real names.

The plot takes a very long time to unravel and there are several incidents that seem not to be relevant to the story. One of my main complaints is that most of the characters switch back and forth from the cast names to their real names throughout the book. Most of the time I wasn't even sure who was who. Even the lead character switches between a dim bulb and a brilliant detective.

Maybe jumping into the fourth book in the series was a mistake, so if you are going to read the Grace Holliday books, I suggest you start at the beginning of the series.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Death on Tap

When Sloan Krause walks in on her husband Mac and a saucy barmaid in the midst of a tryst, she knows she should have seen it coming. In Death on Tap by Ellie Alexander, Sloan has been happily cooking and helping her in-laws in their brewery in Leavenworth, Washington. Mac's infidelity complicates her relationship with her in-laws.

Weeks later Sloan decides she needs to move on from the family business and she applies to a new nano brewery called Nitro. Owner Garrett Strong is a newcomer to Leavenworth and he is looking for someone to manager the brewery. Sloan believes she can help with the food prep as well.

Throwing herself into the new brewery and even dabbling in blending her own beer, Sloan feels she might be able to get her life back on track.

On the morning of the soft opening Sloan hears angry words between Garrett and her husband Mac - with what sounds like a threat from Mac. Later on that evening at Nitro, Mac bursts in trailed by the barmaid, who it turns out is the ex-girlfriend of another brewer, Eddie Deluga. More words pass among the brewers and Sloan tries to soothe everyone before their tempers ruin the opening.

The next morning Sloan finds Eddie floating in one of the beer tanks and she spots Mac's lighter on the ground nearby. In Eddie's hand is a copy of Garrett's new brew, Pucker-up IPA. Suddenly Sloan wonders how much she actually knows about her new boss and why he is in Leavenworth. Although she knows Mac is a cheater, she believes he is not a murderer and she plunges into the investigation.

As she talks to other people in town, Sloan realizes there are secrets brewing around the town that involve many of her friends. Piecing together the solution takes her deeper into the lives of the townspeople.

I enjoyed Death on Tap and the background of breweries. Not being a beer drinker myself, I didn't know much about craft brewing, but I was interested in learning about the way microbrews are developed - almost like baking a cake - a little of this, a dash of that and time to ferment.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

And the winners are. . . Kara Vaughan Marks and Mate Polijak. I will be in touch with you via email. Thanks to all who entered and to Mollie Cox Bryan, author and Kensington Books for the copies of Macrame Murder for the winners.
We hope you will continue to read MapYourMystery.com blog and follow MapYourMystery on Facebook.

Watch for another giveaway in October.

Friday, September 8, 2017

A Sticky Inheritance

Leaving northern Virginia and driving to lower Michigan in October is a chilly experience even if the drive doesn't culminate in a funeral. It's Nicole Fitzhenry-Dawes responsibility to arrange a funeral for her Uncle Stan in A Sticky Inheritance by Emily James. When she learns the autopsy showed a high alcohol level in his blood stream and an overdose of his heart medication, the coroner rules it as an accidental overdose or suicide.

But Nicole knows this cannot be true. Her uncle Stan had been a well-known cardiologist and his own heart condition was alcoholic cardiomyopathy - caused by heavy years of drinking. She knew he had quit drinking years before and refused to believe he would take his own life.

The farm he purchased years before had become his life. He enjoyed the small town living and the less stressful lifestyle as he told Nicole in a recent email. She convinces the medical examiner and the police chief to let her examine Stan's home to prove he was murdered. What they find seems to contradict her belief, but Nicole still argues the case.

One thing sticks in her mind - the chapter in a book about caffeine's negative interactions with the heart. What was Uncle Stan working on and why were there so many empty beer bottles in his trash?

With the help of the handsome (but possibly married) medical examiner, Nicole discovers the offending beer bottles held no fingerprints. She uncovers a complicated plot to kill someone else and finds her uncle got in the way as collateral damage.

We'll hear more from Nicole in other books to come as she has inherited the land and the sugar bush in Michigan. Looking forward to discovering what is going on with the handsome Mark Cavanaugh.

Don't forget to enter for a chance to win in the first MapYourMystery giveaway.



Thursday, September 7, 2017

Interview with Sally Goldenbaum

How many books have you published?
34

How did you become interested in writing?
I've written all my life, Words have always brought me comfort somehow. And pleasure. As a philosophy major I did plenty of writing, then working in marketing and PR (WQED in Pittsburgh and an educational channel in Bloomington IN) gave me additional opportunities. I also worked as an editor of journals for a while and taught creative writing. I suppose I always, somewhere in the back of my head, had the desire to write a book.

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 don't have a set schedule, though I often wish I were one of those writers who got up at 6, had coffee, and hit the office. I start my day more slowly, then usually read out to Starbucks or a library (I have an office at home but find it difficult to work there, with the refrigerator so handy and laundry that needs to be done. My wish would be to write like crazy for 4 hours and then have a life afterwards. But it rarely works out so nearly.

When my deadline begins to loom, I DO work on word count, knowing approximately how many I need to get in each week. I also frame my day around chapters sometimes.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
No. I begin with a sketchy synopsis that I share with my publisher, but I almost never know who the murderer is or why the act was committed. Usually I know who the victim is. But my stories unravel as I write them.

Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
Real people influence and inspire the characters in my book, as do places. My town is fictitious but loosely modeled on three towns on Cape Ann MA: Gloucester (actually a city), Rockport, and Manchester by the Sea.

Who is your favorite author?
I honestly don't have a favorite author. I read a whole variety of books--mysteries, women's fiction, general novels. Right now I am reading A Gentleman in Moscow and a debut novel, Girl in the Snow. I just finished a novel for my 9-yr-old granddaughter's mother/daughter bookclub, Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai. It was excellent!

How do you promote your books?
Mostly social media (fb, website, twitter), and book signings. My publisher adds into this memes they post on social media, blog tours they arrange, giveaways, etc.

Murder Wears Mittens by Sally Goldenbaum is on sale now.

Don't forget to enter for a chance to win in the first MapYourMystery giveaway.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sticks and Bones

A New Year's celebration goes bad when Frangelica "Sister" McFee makes her grand entrance in Sticks and Bone by Carolyn Haines. Sarah Booth knew Sister in college and her arrogant, cruel ways have changed not at all even as she became a successful author.

Her latest best seller documents the deaths of her mother, Cleo and brother many years ago. Sister seems determined to have her brother Son (of all names) take the blame for drunk driving and killing himself and their mother. Worst of all, she is back in Zinnia to film a movie based on the book.

The movie producers think there might be more to the story and hire Sarah Booth and Tinkie to investigate. Also in the frame is Colin McFee, husband of Cleo, now married to Susan. Colin, an ultra wealthy developer, is running for Senator in Mississippi. His platform includes rants about how Vladimir Putin is destroying the economy of Mississippi. I would have thought this premise was too bizarre even for southern politics, but now that this country has experienced the most recent presidential election, nothing surprises me or seems outrageous any more. He is truly crazy.

A convoluted trust agreement, billions of dollars in assets, an unfulfilled desire for parental acceptance and the mysterious deaths haunting the family lead Sarah Booth and Tinkie into a complicated investigation. Why were Cleo and Son out on the road on a horrible, rainy night with flooding everywhere? What caused the car to crash into the river? How did the car disappear after it had been salvaged?

Another gem of a mystery by Carolyn Haines. For a review of another Carolyn Haines book -  The Book of Beloved,  click here.


Don't forget to enter for a chance to win in the first MapYourMystery giveaway.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Enter the Giveaway

Check out this giveaway thanks to Mollie Cox Bryan and Kensington Books! We will be giving away two advance reader copies of Mollie's newest book, Macrame Murder. Be sure to read my review about the book.

Can't wait for the giveaway to end on Sunday 9/10 to get a copy? You can find Mollie's books on Kensington Books' website.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 4, 2017

MacDeath

Shakespeare's MacBeth has been produced in many shapes and forms, but I'm willing to bet not in a circus setting. In Cindy Brown's MacDeath, Ivy Meadows tumbles into her audition and finds herself as one of the three witches in acrobatic gear.

Everyone knows about the curse - no one is supposed to utter the name of the play in the theatre. Unfortunately one of the wannabe actors says MacBeth several time. The entire cast and crew know they are in for a some mischief.

When Ivy encounters her old friend Simon Black, once a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company only to be sliding own the food chain, in the cast, she is thrilled. But Simon places a burden on her she is not sure she can manage. He has decided to give up alcohol and wants Ivy to keep an eye on him so he doesn't backslide.

Throughout the rehearsals, all seems well even with the threat of the "curse" hanging over them. The
cast as you would expect is comprised of a motley crew of characters. Genevieve Fife, known for her Method acting, is cast as Lady MacBeth. Simon is Duncan and two young men - handsome Jason as MacBeth and cute doofus Riley as MacDuff. The Face of Channel 10 news Bill Boxer and utterer of the cursed title of the play round out the cast. All are dressed in various costumes from the circus.

Before the production opens, Ivy finds Simon dead in his dressing room. All signs pointing to a relapse in drinking, but Ivy is convinced he was not drinking again and believes he was murdered. Of course no one believes her.

She tries to convince her uncle Bob, a private investigator, to investigate. As first he is reluctant, but as he finds evidence, he continues his investigation. As predicted various other mishaps occur on the stage during the performance. Secrets, lies and unintended consequences nearly bring the play to its knees until Ivy finds the murderer.

Exciting news - check out Tuesday's blog post for a chance to win in the first MapYourMystery giveaway.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Van Gogh and Me

After reading so many books for the last year to keep up with reviews on MapYourMystery.com, I reached a point where I needed something else to do on occasion. Earlier this month, I watched a Facebook event from several famous galleries hosting five Van Gogh Sunflower paintings.

Van Gogh has always held a fascination for me and when I listened to the curators talk about the five paintings, I was hooked. Just being slightly artistic (I know that's like being slightly pregnant), I decided to try my hand at paint-by- numbers. Sounds pretty easy, right.

Well let me tell you there is some skill in learning how to mix two colors so you can get the third color you need to paint and to make sure you have enough to complete the section in the painting. So today there is no book review, but my painting so far.

I'd love to hear your comments.