Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Ambitious Card

Magician Eli Marks is invited to a PBS live remote Halloween show in The Wabasha Street Caves in St. Paul. His role is to debunk a psychic who will also be on the show. In The Ambitious Card by John Gaspard, Eli finds more than he bargained for.

The psychic named Grey will perform his act in front of a live audience and then Eli will debunk it. Eli dislikes the term debunk and he prefers to be called a skeptic. Grey performs his act doling out vague suggestions and answering questions submitted by his audience. The audience is loving it.

When Eli steps on stage, it's in front of a fairly hostile audience. He believes Grey is really an illusionist or a not too subtle magician. As he explains how Grey is able to predict the questions in the bowl, Eli explains a card trick known as One Ahead. The magician is one ahead. In Grey's case he knows the first question and when he opens the envelope, he is getting the second question.

As his last trick Eli does The Ambitious Card trick and Grey picks the King of Diamonds. It keeps
reappearing not matter how many times Eli shuffles the cards. The climax to the trick is when Eli, blindfolded, uses Grey's letter opener to trap the ambitious card on the table. Unfortunately the next day, Grey is found dead - stabbed in the eye with the letter opener and the King of Diamonds card attached.

Suddenly Eli is a suspect. His ex-wife Deidre Sutton-Hutton, assistant DA, and her husband Homicide Detective Fred Hutton want to meet with Eli to discuss the crime.They release Eli, but warn him that he is a person of interest.

When another psychic dies Eli knows he needs to solve the riddle.

An entertaining mystery with an unlikely hero.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Jennifer S. Alderson

How many books have you published? 
I have three books out, two mysteries and a travelogue. Down and Out in Kathmandu: A
Backpacker Mystery is about an American volunteer in Nepal who gets entangled with Thai diamond smugglers. The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery is an amateur sleuth ‘whodunit’ set in present-day and wartime Amsterdam. Both novels are part of the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series. The third installment, Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery, will be released in March 2018. This time Zelda’s trying to solve the mystery of a long lost anthropologist and his missing collection of artifacts. It’s set in present-day Amsterdam and Papua New Guinea in the 1960s.

My travelogue, Notes of a Naive Traveler, is a series of excerpts from a travel journal I kept while volunteering in Kathmandu and backpacking through Nepal and Thailand.

How did you become interested in writing? 
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, though in my younger years I focused on poetry and short stories, mostly mysteries. One of my favorite childhood memories is of thinking up storylines and plot twists with my father. During college I majored in journalism and worked as a columnist, investigative journalist and newspaper editor before life took me in other directions. I didn’t seriously consider writing a novel until my father died. Completing a full-length work of fiction was my way of honoring his memory. It took eight years, but I know he would be proud I finished it.

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?
My writing schedule has evolved with each book. I wrote Down and Out in Kathmandu in the evenings and weekends over an eight year period. The Lover’s Portrait was written during my infant son’s nap time and ultimately took four years. Now that he is at school fulltime, I have five hours, four days a week to work. As a result, Notes of a Naive Traveler was complete within seven months and my current novel will be finished within two years.

I usually dedicate the morning to writing. After a late lunch, I spend time on marketing, update my website, and write blog posts, articles for magazines or interviews. A few evenings a week, I’ll crawl behind the computer and catch up on social media. Somehow the wash and vacuuming gets done, though don’t ask me when!

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go? 
I’m a big believer in writing up a tight outline before beginning the first draft. It takes a lot of time to work out all of the details and twists, but I’ve found it to be a crucial step. When I have a clear idea of where the story is going, I’m more apt to jump behind the computer or pull out my notebook, than when it is still floating around in my head. Once the first draft is complete, I’ll reevaluate the characters, settings and plot twists, allowing myself to tear out or change any elements that feel unnecessary or are misleading.

Do you use real people and places as models for your books? 
I am an avid traveler and love to infuse my writing with experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met while backpacking around the world. It is important to me that the setting be described as accurately as possible. I want readers to have the feeling they have just visited the city, country or region I’m describing in my book.

None of my characters are modeled after an actual person – not even Zelda – but are conglomerates of people I’ve met on the road, at work or even a bus stop. I am fascinated by my fellow man and tend to start up conversations with pretty much everyone I meet.

Who is your favorite author? 
That is an impossible question to answer! The three authors I’ve read the most of are Philip Kerr, Donna Leon and Janet Evanovich. I’ve recently discovered Victoria Blake and enjoyed reading both Titian’s Boatman and Jumping the Cracks.

How do you promote your books? 
I promote my books on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram. A few months ago I started a Facebook group, Travel By Book, for readers and authors of travel fiction and non-fiction. It’s been a fun way to connect with new readers and find great books to read! Every few weeks I try and publish a short article on my blog providing more information about places, topics, events or people featured in one of my books. Those are always fun to write! I also reach out to book bloggers, use promotion websites and have a newsletter.

For a review of The Lover's Portrait: An Art  Mystery, click here

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Talent for Murder

In the 1920s Agatha Christie disappeared for 10 days. Throughout the remainder of her life, she said very little about that troubling time. In A Talent for Murder Andrew Wilson reimagines a scenario that might fit with the famed mystery writer's life.

On a December morning Agatha Christie is on her way back from a visit to her publisher. As she waits at the train station, she feels a slight push on her back and finds herself falling onto the tracks. Seconds later an arm grabs her and pulls her to safety.

Her "savior" Dr. Kurs is no guardian angel; he is an insidious, manipulative blackmailer and he wants her to commit a murder. Already despondent because of the affair between her husband Archie Christie and Nancy Neele, Agatha is feeling demolished and depressed about the prospect of a divorce. Since her mother's death she has been struggling with her writing. Now this strange and diabolical plan.

As in the real story Agatha drives away in her car and it, her fur coat, driver's license and a small
suitcase are found several miles from home near the Silent Pool in Newlands Corner in Surrey. In this story, Agatha meets Dr. Kurs and he tells her she is going to murder his wife Flora for him. Horrified, Agatha refuses, but then Kurs threatens to harm her daughter Rosalind and publish the story of Archie's infidelity.

Kurs has told Agatha she will staying at spa in a northern town and he drives her to the train station. He insists that she use the surname Neele, the name of Archie's mistress. Agatha balks but there is not much she can do.

Bewildered and befuddled, Agatha blindly follows Kurs and moves into the Swan Hydropathic Hotel and awaits further instructions. While the police continue to search for "the body" of Agatha Christie, Kurs explains how he wants his plan to proceed. Agatha, being the mystery writer she is, decides she might have her own script to follow.

This is an entertaining and most diabolical theory of what happened in the days of the real disappearance. If you are a fan of Agatha Christie, you need to read this book.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Fleur de Sel Murders

Commissaire Dupin is following a lead from a journalist friend when he is shot at in the salt pools of Brittany. In The Fleur de Sel Murders by Jean-Luc Bannalec, journalist Lilou Breval tells Dupin she believes something strange is going on in the salt pools. She has seen blue barrels in the pools, but doesn't know what is in them.

When Lilou disappears and Dupin cannot find the barrels, he is assigned to the missing persons case along with Commissaire Sylvaine Rose. Dupin, who has been transferred from Paris to Brittany, is not used to work with others and sometimes he and Rose seem at cross purposes.

When Lilou's body is discovered, Dupin and Rose find themselves enmeshed in a web of lies, conflicts of interest and murder.

Half of the salt pools are owned by a consortium of locals, the other half are owned by a large
corporation. One salt pool is owned by an independent named Maxime Daeron. The salt pools are tended in much the same way they have been cultivated in the White Land for generations. It's a stunning sight to see. Le Sel, the corporation, has been trying to purchase the consortium's salt pools, but the owners are resisting.

When Daeron is found dead of an apparent suicide after relating he had been having an affair with Lilou, Dupin thinks they may have solved Lilou's murder, but what of the blue barrels.

Digging deeper, Dupin and Rose discover everything is not what it seems in the White Land, leading to an exciting climax.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Painted Queen

The Emersons are the target of five assassins out to avenge the death of their brother Geoffrey Godwin, Nefret's late husband. In The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters  and Joan Hess, the Emersons are off to Amarna.

Amelia and family are searching for the bust of Nefertiti at an archaeological site being excavated by German archeologist Herr Morgenstern. Herr Morgenstern has left the site under mysterious circumstances, allegedly after Nefertiti has been discovered.

Not wanting to point the finger at Morgenstern, Ramses and David search through the suks of Cairo to find a master forger's workshop. Their hope is to find the bust in the workshop.

And oh yes there are five assassins seeking vengeance on Amelia and Ramses. The brothers - Absalom, Guy, Cromwell, Judas and Flintworthy are out to avenge their brother in the craziest ways possible. Judas bursts in Amelia bathroom but someone has stabbed him in the back first. Guy blows himself up with an attempt at dynamite, Cromwell loses his head. And so it goes. Just another day in Egypt.

Meanwhile the search for Herr Morgenstern continues. Amelia follows him out into the desert where he appears to be in the middle of another psychotic episode and about to have heat stroke. She herself is almost overcome, but stout Amelia that she is, she wrangles Morgenstern back to Amarna and to the tender mercies of Nefret.

In Cairo, Ramses and David discover several copies of Nefertiti.
Unsure what to do with the copies, they carefully package them into a truck and hire a mob to escort them to the train. Never a dull moment for the Emersons. Even Sethos, the Master Criminal, makes an appearance.
So sad to finish the last Amelia Peabody Emerson book by Elizabeth Peters. I will have to go back and read the others again, I guess.  

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Altered to Death

An intriguing mystery with scrapbooking thrown in. In Altered to Death by Christina Freeburn, Faith Hunter has been asked by the town council to develop a scrapbook for the town’s birthday. One of the mysteries is why the Evertons, founding family left Eden, West Virginia, without a trace.

The family’s mansion has been abandoned since they left, but now the town wants to preserve it. The Buford brothers have been hired to  clean up and restore the exterior of the mansion. The beautifully ornate woodwork has been brought back to its original glory by the brothers. The interior needs work and the Buford brothers are anxious to get inside. Money from the town is an issue.

Faith needs to look through some trunks in the house to see if she can find any diaries and learn more about the Evertons and their life in town. When she finally is able to get into the attic, Faith finds what looks like a diary from one of the Everton daughters.

While the city council is trying to find more money to continue the renovations,  a missing heir is
announced. The attorney for the heir refuses to disclose who it is and demands the work at the house be stopped. Shortly thereafter a skeleton is found on the grounds. Faith tries to unravel the two mysteries.

Thee are another set of brothers in this series - The Brodarts brothers. They believe they are the rightful heirs to Everton. Both of the Brodart brothes are rude and angry characters and give Faith problems with taking anything from the home.

Pulling one thread at a time, Faith solves the mystery, I enjoyed the series and plan to go back to read the others in the series. 

One negative comment: not sure why authors use similar names for their characters. There are two sets of brothers whose last name starts with a B. Please there are 25 others letters. Way less confusing

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express - The Movie

There isn't a mystery lover alive who doesn't know the plot of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. The newest film version features a cast that includes Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot, as well as Dame Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Willem Defoe, Penelope Cruz and many others.

My first thought when I heard about the remake was why, then my second was Kenneth Branagh as Poirot. To both of those I was pleasantly surprised. The movie was beautifully filmed (sometimes in miniature) with the exception of a couple of contrived shooting angles, and the cast plays their parts well.

For those who do not know the plot, a group of strangers embark on the Orient Express railroad from Istanbul to Paris with connections to Dover then London. When one of the passengers in murdered in his sleeping car, Poirot is called upon the solve the crime. Complicating matters is an avalanche. It has blocked the track so the train is stopped on a bridge in the Alps.

Naturally with 12 passengers there are plenty of suspects. Is it the arrogant Princess Dragomiroff, the volatile Count Andreyni, the stuffy Austrian Professor, the secretary to the murdered man, the aging blond looking for a husband or any one of the others?

Monsieur Poirot is stumped at first because of the various clues left at the scene, but then he uses his "little gray cells" to solve the murder.

I've read Murder on the Orient Express several times and I remember the original movie so I did not know what to expect from this new version. I was pleasantly surprised and it held my attention throughout.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Passport to Murder

Poor Emmeline Prather. All her life she has dreamed of going to Paris and now she is on her way. In Passport to Murder by Mary Angela Em is on the plane with her students and some faculty members flying to Paris. Suddenly one of the professors goes into anaphylactic shock from a peanut allergy.

Outspoken Professor Molly Jaspers and her husband Bennett are on the trip because she is going to speak at the Sorbonne on organic gardening. Right before they board the flight, Molly and Andre Duman are overheard arguing. He says, "One day Molly is going to offend the wrong person and find herself in trouble."

One day comes and Molly dies on the plane from her peanut allergy, but everyone thinks it is an accident.  The plane turns back to Minneapolis and everyone thinks it is an unfortunate accident.

When the autopsy shows Molly had not ingested any peanuts and there was no peanut residue on her
clothing, the police change the verdict from accidental to murder. Naturally Em is devastated about having to return and she refuses to believe it was murder and especially doesn't believe Andre should be a suspect.

The sad group returns to South Dakota and their dreams of a week in Paris are dashed forever. As Em investigates, it seems dear Molly was not much loved by her colleagues. When someone else from the group dies, Em is determined to prove Andre is not the murderer.

The one plus in her misadventure is the opportunity to get to know her colleague Lenny Jenkins. While in Minneapolis, Em is invited to hear Lenny play guitar at First Avenue, where Prince got his start. Em even ropes Lenny into helping with the investigation.

When small pieces start to fall into place, Em knows who the killer is and works with the local police to solve the case.

Em is a terrific character - outspoken, funny and fearless except in the affairs of the heart. I hope to read more of Mary Angela's Professor Prather books.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Murder is Her Hobby

Murder is her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death will be at the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery (Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW) until January 28, 2018.

Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) crafted her extraordinary “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”—exquisitely detailed miniature crime scenes—to train homicide investigators to “convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell.” These dollhouse-sized dioramas of true crimes, created in the first half of the 20th century and still used in forensic training today, helped to revolutionize the emerging field of homicide investigation.

To learn more about this exhibit, click here.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sun, Sand, Murder

Special Constable Teddy Creque is the only police presence on his sun-drenched island in the British Virgin Islands. Crime has been non existent on Anegada and Teddy is happy with that status. In Sun, Sand, Murder by John Keyse-Walker, Teddy's life is about to turn upside down.

An hysterical phone calls sends Teddy to the beach to investigate a murder. When he arrives, he finds De White Rasta, a drug addled idler, nearby and the body of biologist Paul Kelliher baking in the sun. All around the body are holes dug in the sand.

Rather than leave the body exposed to the elements, Teddy drags it back to a nearby tent and returns to call in his superiors. When the British Virgin Islands Police Force deputy commissioner arrives to investigate the crime, Teddy is dismissed as non essential, especially after he discovers Teddy disturbed the scene of the crime.

Teddy has problems in his personal life as he has been having a blazing affair with a sultry helicopter
pilot named Cat Wells. She shuttles visitors to Anegada and occasionally stays on the island. Teddy knows this is a dangerous affair because Anegada is small island, but he persists. 

Relegated to useless and asked to track down next of kin, Teddy tries to find out more about Paul Kelliher. Kelliher had been coming to the island for five yeas, staying for part of the year and then leaving. He said he was a biologist from a university in Boston. As Teddy tries to trace Kelliher, he discovers he didn't exist and his address and identification were fake.

When the Joint Interagency Task Force South lands on Anegada with heavily armed, they are sure this island is a drug hotspot and Teddy is the drug king. Teddy worries about his job and his freedom and he doubles his efforts. He finds a notebook with what looks like code, and Teddy finds an unlikely ally, De White Rasta who it turns out is a well-educated, titled Englishman with a knack for codebreaking.

Sun, Sand, Murder is a well-written gripping mystery that kept me guessing throughout. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Seeds of Revenge

It's the dead of winter and the farm is quiet at this time of the year, but Megan Sawyer is drawn into another murder. In Seeds of Revenge by Wendy Tyson, Megan stumbles across a young woman stranded in the snow not far from town. She turns out to be Merry Chance's niece, Becca.

Becca Fox is in Winsome to stay with her aunt and develop her business The Love Chemist. Her product is a mix of pheromones and perfume to produce the love potions. Megan is not sure it's a viable business plan, but she listens attentively.

When she drops off Becca at Merry's place, a man steps out of the shadows and Becca begins shouting that she doesn't ever want to see him and her aunt should not have tried to bring them together. As Megan drives away she wonders what conversation is going on behind close doors.

Megan learns from her boyfriend Denver that Becca's family had lived in Winsome in the past. Paul
Fox was hired by Eloise to work with some of her patients suffering from trauma, but unexpectedly Eloise asked him to leave the practice and the family moved away.

When Paul is found dead under unusual circumstances, Megan arrives at the crime scene and all windows are wide open on the house. Worrying that this means there was a gas leak, she hurries to speak with police chief Bobby King. Megan notices a faint odor in the room, but it is not natural gas.

Days later it appears Paul died from phosgene poisoning, a plot stolen from one of Megan's aunt Sarah's mystery books.There are plenty of other suspects because Paul took sadistic pleasure in wounding others. especially his daughter Becca.

More incidents occur that seem to be from Sarah's books. What is the killer trying to say? Megan finds herself plunged into the middle of the mystery and a string of other crimes.

For a review of another Wendy Tyson book, click here

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Death at the Emerald

Lady Frances Ffolkes finds herself in the middle of a 30-year-old missing persons case. Newly commissioned (by herself) as a consulting detective, she takes on the case in Death at the Emerald by R.J. Koreto.

Surprised to receive a summons from Lady Torrence, Lady Frances learns the woman wants her to find her missing daughter Louisa. Thirty years prior, Louisa abruptly left her family home because of her tyrannical father, but no one has heard from her since.

Louisa always had a love for the theater as a child and when she expressed an interest in becoming and actress, her father made plans to send her away. Before he could, she ran away and was never heard from again.

Using her maid Mallow as her Watson, Lady Frances 
assumes Sherlock Holmes' techniques and tries to discover what has happened to Louisa. Faced with a road block at the theater, she knows the men of the theater are lying about knowing Louisa. When one of them is found murdered outside the theater, she knows she is on the right path.

She finds a flyer in the belongings of the murdered man that promotes The Halliday Mission,
Maidstone, Kent, and discovers The Mission is now based in London. The Hallidays themselves are long dead, but their son Reverend Samuel Halliday is the vicar at a church in Wimbledon.

Unsure what if any connection there is to Louisa, who she now knows was an actress named Helen, Lady Frances sets out to meet the Reverend. When she discovers a grave with a huge monument towering over it, Lady Frances enlists of the aid of Scotland Yards' Inspector Eastley to help with the exhumation.

What she discovers leads her on a clever path of deception and mistaken identity. Another terrific adventure for Lady Frances Ffolkes and the dependable Mallow.

For another review of a Lady Ffolkes book, click here

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Molly Murphy Sullivan has been caring for her mother-in-law in suburban Westchester County with plans to spend the Christmas holidays there. When plans change, Molly, her mother-in-law and her family find themselves invited to Scarborough, the home of wealthy Cedric Van Aiken in The Ghost of Christmas Past by Rhys Bowen.

Excited to be spending the holidays in such a lovely mansion, Molly soon realizes there is much tension in the household. She learns the couple's toddler daughter Charlotte walked out of the house 10 years ago at Christmas and has not been seen since.

Winnie Van Aiken is a shadow of her former self, thin, gaunt and pale. She has never given up hope about her daughter, but no one else seems to believe the little girl could still be alive.

Winne's elderly aunt, a somewhat doddering woman, confuses Molly with Winnie's long-lost sister. Startled when Winnie's father claims she has no sister, Molly is
not sure what is going on. Later on in the visit Aunt Clara asks about young man that provokes another outburst from Winnie's father. Is Aunt Clara confused or are the residents of the regal house hiding something.

When Aunt Clara dies in her sleep, Molly worries about her own family. Unable to resist a mystery, Molly spends her time investigating the disappearance of the little girl. After 10 years there are hardly any clues left to discover, but she persists.

On Christmas Eve there is a knock on the door and standing there is a young girl who announces, "I am Charlotte." This throws the entire household into tizzy. Could this be Winnie's long-lost daughter or a carefully prepared imposter?

A definite page turner and the resolution will surprise the reader. I enjoyed The Ghost of Christmas Past very much

Monday, November 13, 2017

Death in the Manuscript Room

Libraries are usually quiet, calm places, but add librarian Raymond Ambler to the mix and there is room for trouble. Con Lehane's Murder in the Manuscript Room is a taut, tense mystery full of secrets and lies where people's rights are infringed upon in the name of national security.

Caught in the middle of a custody battle for his grandson Johnny with his socialite grandmother, Raymond is in a foul mood when he reaches the library on 42nd Street. He is greeted by two people; one he knows - Mike Cosgrove, an NYPD detective, and another he doesn't - Paul Higgins, an amateur writer and former police intelligence officer.

Higgins wants to donate his papers to the library's crime fiction collection. Although Ray doesn't think there is much value in the papers, he is intrigued when Higgins wants some of the papers restricted from view. And when he mentions the name of a long-dead truckers union leader, Richard Wright, Ray is all ears. Ray's childhood friend Devon Thomas was accused of the murder and is serving a life sentence.

Days after the papers are brought to the library, research assistant Leila Stone is found murdered in Ray's office. The police leap to
arrest an Arabic doctoral student for the crime. Gobi Tabrizi is researching the origins and evolution of Islamic law, Sharia. He seems unassuming and not the least bit interested in murdering a library researcher.

Tabrizi is carted away by a mysterious government unit and Ray decides to get more involved. As he digs deeper he finds gains soe scary insights into the world of secrecy and political expediency.

When someone else dies, Ray feels himself in danger and worries about his grandson and his library colleague Adele. Murder in the Manuscript Room is an excellent puzzle with a frightening outcome.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Character Study in Great Detail

If you have ever wanted to know more about a certain character in your favorite book, check out the
links below. Author Alison Golden goes into great detail about her characters in a way I have not seen before. The character sketches have always interested me because sometimes I feel as if the characters are people I know, but I have never seen such detail (no offense to other authors who do this).

If you have read any of Golden's Inspector David Graham books, the detailed backgrounds fill in so much information about each character.

If you are interested in these background sketches, click here. The titles are shown below.

For a review of The Case of the Fallen Hero, click here.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Death on Paradise Island

National rugby hero Josefa Horseman returns home to Fiji from one year rehabbing his knee in the United States. When he returns home, he discovers he has been promoted Detective Inspector at his day job on the Fiji Police Force. In Death on Paradise Island by B.M. Allsopp, Joe is thrown right into the case of a drowned woman.

Without so much as a chance to sleep after his 24-hour plane ride, Joe is sent to a luxury resort called Paradise Island to investigate the drowning of one of the maids. Most everyone thinks Nisi accidentally drowned, and her family has already prepared her for burial, clearly destroying any exterior evidence. But the postmortem reveals, Nisi did not drown and she had had either a miscarriage or an abortion in the previous week.

There are plenty of suspects including her uncle Jona, an angry man tasked with keeping an eye on his niece; Dr. Vijay Chakra, who has disappeared from the scene; Maika, Nisi's boyfriend; and Bill Burgermeister, a scientist
leading the marine reserve project. Joe and his team including Sergeant Susila Singh fan out on the island to look for a motive.

Even in Paradise there are secrets, lies and hidden jealousies that lead Joe and his team on a strange path to solve the crime.

In the back of Joe's mind is his rugby career. He is positive he will be recovered enough to play again after resting this season, but nearly everyone he meets comments on his retirement from the game and his promotion in the police department.

This is an interesting mystery that shows even Paradise can be a place where bad things happen, and there are people who seem to have a perfect life wishing for more. I enjoyed Death on Paradise Island and hope there are more books in this series.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Frances Evesham Interview

How many books have you published?
I've published seven books in all. Two are set in Victorian England (The Thatcham Hall Mysteries),
and a series of five 'Agatha Christie' style murder mysteries set in the present day in a small English seaside town in Somerset.

How did you become interested in writing?
I've always loved reading, the first step to becoming a writer. The first books I remember loving were The Borrowers, the Moomins, the Narnia stories and any book about horses. I began to scribble in notebooks, and when, later, I heard about the Bronte sisters, I developed tiny notebooks, like the ones they used, in the hope that their genius may rub off on me!

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 write in fits and starts, as I can't stop once I get into a story, and when it's finished I like to take a break. Also, a writer these days has to spend considerable time marketing, so I devote one day a week to non-book writing activities.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
I plan very carefully, because there needs to be a coherent thread throughout the book, leading to the murderer. I plan the overall story line, and then write short synopses of each scene. Then, I begin to write, and often completely change the story as better ideas pop into my head. Like many writers, I find my characters develop a life of their own, and I've even had to change the identity of a villain. In that case, I had to go back and revise the entire book, but I was delighted with the result.

Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
I set each story in a place I know. The Exham on Sea books are set in Somerset, and Libby, my amateur detective, lives in a small town very like my own, but with a different name. I don't want to offend any neighbors! The characters begin with characteristics of people I have known, but these develop and change. I write a background for each person in the story before I begin writing the book, so they are very real to me.

Who is your favorite author?
I love other mystery writers, and Agatha Christie is at the top of the pile, for her plots and wicked sense of humor. I adore the author character who appears in several of her books, called Ariadne Oliver, who gives wonderfully stringent opinions on writing that I suspect must be some of Christie's own opinions. She's especially good in "Mrs McGinty's Dead" where she describes one of her own inventions, a Finnish detective: "Of course he's idiotic, but people seem to like him." Perhaps Christie felt like that about Hercule Poirot.

How do you promote your books?
I invite people to sign up to my newsletter, (at so I can tell them directly about new books and , especially, any special promotional prices. I send a free Kitchen Cheat Sheet to all new members of this VIP group, as a welcome. I occasionally speak at events in the local area, and have strong links with some other writers. That means we can introduce our readers to each others' books, which is a win-win as my readers hear about other authors they might enjoy, and new readers can hear about my books. I'm thrilled when a reader contacts me, through my website or directly through email after I send out a newsletter, and I've discovered readers all over the world who are rapidly becoming friends. I don't do very much social media, but maintain a Twitter and Facebook account.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Importance of Being Urnest

Maggy Thorsen has moved her shop, Uncommon Grounds, into the refurbished train station just outside Milwaukee. In The Importance of Being Urnest, by Sandra Balzo, business has picked up since the move, to Maggie's relief.

New for Maggie is the proposal from her boyfriend Sheriff Jake Pavlik. Unsure whether she wants to get married again, Maggie is agonizing over the decision.

When Maggie meets some new customers in her shop, she wonders how difficult it is to care for two older women. It seems Hannah Bouchard is caring for her aging mother Celeste and her mother's friend Nancy Casperson in their home as opposed to the Brookhills Manor senior living facility. Several other customers of Uncommon Grounds live in the senior apartments and it seems like a good place.

Unfortunately all is not what it seems. A former con man, Jack Anderson, lives there and his brother,
Pauly Anderson, is wanted by the police. He has been spotted at Brookhills Manor and the police are called. Before too long a shoot out occurs and Sheriff Pavlik and two other police officers are shot; Pauly, using his brother as a hostage, escapes.

Suddenly Celeste Bouchard dies and Hannah is left caring for Nancy, but needs to have some money from mother's trust to pay for cremation services. (The cremation aspect of this book is a whole other story and very unusual.) Maggie believes there is something odd in the way Hannah is acting, but she cannot place what it is. When she asks Maggie to visit the attorney with her, Maggie jumps at the chance. Nancy is the surviving trustee, but she is suffering from the death of Celeste and has early stages of dementia herself. When she refuses to sign papers to give Hannah money, Maggie wonders what will happen to them.

This near miss with Pavlik sends Maggy's heart into a tailspin, and when he moves in so she can care for him, there are bumps in the road. 

There is a lot going on in this book and at the conclusion, you will be able to understand the title and how it relates to events. I've always enjoyed the Maggie Thorsen books, but this one was unnecessarily busy with many, many characters and subplots.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Handmade, Holiday, Homicide

Kiki Lowenstein and staff from "The Island of Broken Toys" are back for another go at solving a mystery and teaching crafts. In Handmade, Holiday, Homicide by Joanna Campbell Slan, Kiki and friends are planning their Christmas craft schedule. One class is something called Zentangle and Kiki has to take the class to an off-site location.

Attending the class are two older sisters; one sweet and nice, the other nasty and spiteful. Ester is eagerly awaiting the class, but Eudora is confrontational and disruptive. At the second class Laurel, one of Kiki's instructors is accosted by the security guard Brad Oxdemann, who has been stalking her. He wants to be a police officer, but she filed a complaint about him and that is preventing him from being hired.

When Eudora suddenly clasps at her chest and falls forward, the others try CPR, but by the time the paramedics arrive, she is dead. Everyone including the EMTs who arrive believe it is a death by natural causes.

Kiki discovers most everyone in the class had a motive to kill Eudora and she relates this information
to her Detective fiance. Meanwhile, although she is nearly ready to deliver her new baby, Kiki is dashing around in a flurry of activity. One time she slips and falls on the ice and manages to slide underneath the frame of a car. I had a hard time picturing this and when she deliberately does it again to avoid the murderer, I feared for her life and her unborn child's.

I always loved these books especially the concept of a craft shops with classes, but this last book did not appeal to me. It appears as if the author is deliberately throwing all kinds of oddities into Kiki's life. She is raising her teenage daughter, now she has adopted her fiance's ex-wife's mixed race child (not even his child), her mother-in-law is acting out again and Kiki, herself, seems bent on overdoing everything. Maybe I was a slacker, but when I was nine months pregnant, the last thing I did was traipse around carrying craft supplies and avoiding murderers.

I'd like to see all the complications toned down a little for the next book, but I do not foresee that. Too bad because this was an excellent series in the early books.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Book Club

Last night our neighborhood book club met for the first time. My friends and I have been planning to do this for a while, but couldn't seem to get it together until now. 

Starting a book club is always difficult - what book should we read, how many people should be invited, should there be snacks, how frequently should we meet, what if I recommend a book and no one likes it?

Our group decided to meet once a month and we thought we would read general fiction, historical fiction and nonfiction. Not very interested in fantasy or gory murders.

The first book we chose was The Lying Game by Ruth Ware. It is told in flashbacks, something I do not enjoy in a book, and deals with events that happened to four teenage girls at a boarding school in England. The father of one of the girls was an art teacher at the school and the girls spent many weekends at his house.

The Lying Game comes from how the girls always tell other people lies about themselves, including Isa Wilde who tells people she is a descendant of Oscar Wilde. One lie they tell is that Ambrose, Kate's father disappeared one day.

Our book club felt manipulated by the authors to believe something else happened to Ambrose. Don't want to give away the plot in case you haven't read this book. 

For our next couple of books we decided to read Camino Island by John Grisham and Hum if You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais.

Overall everyone had a chance to talk about how they felt about the book. Sometimes we veered off talking about other books we had read (which to me is the fun of book clubs). Many of us were busily scribbling down the titles of books our co-club members had read.

Some others on the future list include Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan, The History of Bees by Maja Lunde and Cooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray.

It was a fun evening, and yes we had snacks and wine.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Death in St. Petersburg

Lady Emily Hargreaves has accompanied her husband Colin to St. Petersburg, Russia, while he is on a mission for the Crown. It is the winter of 1900 and Lady Emily has never experienced such cold weather. In Death in St. Petersburg by Tasha Alexander Lady Emily's experience will include the violent death of one of the ballet's premier ballerinas.

As one of the most beautiful cities in the world, St. Petersburg's Neva River and its system of canals gracefully wind their way past palatial palaces, fabulous churches and gorgeous museums. Peter the Great built his city to emulate the capitals of Europe, but one area in which St. Petersburg stands above all is the ballet.

Legendary ballerinas have danced at the Mariinsky Theatre and none so elegant as Irina Semnova Nemetseva. This night she was to dance the dual roles of Odette and Odile in Swan Lake, but someone ended her sparkling career in a brutal way out in the snow, still wearing her Swan Lake costume.

Death in St. Petersburg is a carefully crafted mystery told from the point of view of Lady Emily and secondary dancer and friend of Irina, Ekaterina Petrovna. There's just enough historical background to understand the turbulent times that are facing the Tsar and his family in Russia with whispers of what is to come.

Who would have wanted to kill Irina? Was it one of her discarded lovers, a jealous ex-boyfriend or Ekaterina herself? Tasha Alexander spins a beautiful tale of the hard work and sacrifice it takes to become a prima ballerina and the single minded devotion it takes to become a star.

I very much enjoyed this book, not just for the story, but for the fact that I had visited St. Petersburg recently and could so perfectly visualize the city and its beautiful buildings. Although this is book #12 of the Lady Emily series, I think this one can stand alone if you have not read the others. But caution, you will probably want to go back and read the others.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Alison Golden Interview

How many books have you published?
Thirteen so far, four in the Inspector Graham and Diana Hunter series, five in the Reverend
Annabelle Dixon series.

How did you become interested in writing?
As I child I wanted to write stories for the magazines my mother read. I thought they were so lame and I thought I could do better. But then life took over and I forgot all about the idea. I didn't start thinking about writing again until I volunteered for fundraiser rummage sale my kids school was running in 2010. We'd had trouble the previous year getting volunteers so I decided to blog about our latest efforts in an attempt to motivate other parents. It was well received and we ended up raising over $30,000 in one weekend. That made me think I might be on to something. I started blogging, writing newsletter for other people, ghostwriting, and eventually published a few non-fiction books. Finally, I decided I wanted to write fiction and came up with the ideas for the three series and it went from there.

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 write in the morning. Writing is harder for me than marketing so I do that first. I go over and over a draft many times before I'm satisfied that it is ready. The first few are the hardest and take the longest. So I might write or edit over two or three hours per day for the first few drafts then as the copy gets cleaner I move quicker and work longer on it. I end up reading the entire book in a day at the end of the process just before publication. I read all the drafts aloud, walking around my house.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
80-90% is plotted beforehand. I don't always know the odd fine twist but they come to me as I work. However, I have been known to make drastic changes during the editing change if the story doesn't feel right. I've even changed who the murderer is after I've written the whole book.

Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
Quite often a character will contain a kernel of a real person or may be amalgam of several. I often use situations that I've come across in real life that have struck me as unusual as inspiration but nothing is directly lifted.

Who is your favorite author?
Ooh, so many: Jane Austen and Charles Dickens have written my favorite classics. I like Kate Atkinson and Deborah Crombie. I'm about to start Louise Penny because so many of my readers recommend her.

How do you promote your books?
I have my lovely reader email list, I run AMS ads, put my books in box sets with other authors, run the occasional promotion including BookBubs.