Thursday, October 17, 2019

Christmas Cocoa Murder

It's nearly Christmas in Kilbane, County Cork, but Siobhan O'Sullivan is thinking about the New Year. That's when she officially becomes Garda O'Sullivan. The only thing dampening her enthusiasm is Macdara Flannery still living in Dublin.

In Christmas Cocoa Murder by Carlene O'Connor, the author is joined by Maddie Day, author of Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse, and Alex Erickson, author of Death by Hot Cocoa. All three stories almost put you off your nightly cocoa, but they are charmingly entertaining. 

In Christmas Cocoa Murder, Siobhan is heading for her family's pub, near the town square and cannot believe her eyes. A dunk tank filled with hot cocoa is proudly standing in the middle of the square. She wonders what Paddy O'Shea, the town Santy, is up to now. She knew there was a rivalry with Mr. and Mrs. Claus from Charlesville, but this was ridiculous.  

While the villagers are watching the panto, the dunk tank rolls out of his shed prematurely with Paddy lying on the board extended over the cocoa. Before long, 
Santa's put-upon elf Cormac Dooley picks up a snowball and aims for the target. Bull's eye, Santy gets dunked. As they struggle to roll the tank back into the shed, Siobhan hopes this craziness will die down, but suddenly the dunk tank rolls out of the shed again and this time Santy is floating face down in the cocoa. 

Siobhan has her hands full with kidnapped dogs, stolen family items and a prize winning nutcracker. 

In Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse by Maddie Day, Robbie Jordan finds herself in the middle of a murder. When Jed Greenburg is found dead outside the library with a chocolate lab whimpering over the body, the police look to Abe's father Howard as a suspect.

It seems Jed had been stealing from a joint business venture involving Howard, making him him look suspicious. The police also focus on Robbie's shop because Howard gave Jed some of Robbie's special Christmas cocoa. Nothing kills a restaurant's reputation faster than being accused of poisoning someone with food or drink. 

Robbie knows she needs to solve the murder and save her restaurant and her soon-to-be father-in-law.

In Death by Hot Cocoa by Alex Erickson, Krissy Hancock and her best friend Rita Jablonski set out to attend a Christmas-themed escape room, they never expect to find a dead body. Eight people are scheduled to participate in Lewis Coates' escape room, They each enter a room and are locked in. It is their job to figure out how to open the door to the main room. 

When they all escape into the main room, they find Lewis dead with cocoa spilled around his chair. Now, not only are they trapped in a room until they can figure out the next set of  clues, they have a body to contend with. 

Three entertaining mysteries with unique Christmas-themed puzzles to solve. The ideal stocking stuffer. 


Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Interview with Stephen Clark

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
Hands Up is the title of my sophomore novel. My debut novel was a political thriller titled Citizen Kill.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
Hands Up features three protagonists who represent different aspects of American society: Officer
Stephen Clark
Ryan Quinn is an idealistic rookie who brushes off causal racism until he fatally shoots an unarmed black teen. As an everyman of sorts, Ryan is the embodiment of a culture that, if not racist, has certainly allowed racism to flourish. Jade Wakefield is a cynical college student struggling with mental health issues after a life of pain and heartache. Like the troubled neighborhood she lives in, Jade perseveres and clings to a glimmer of hope as she sets out to avenge her brother’s death. And Kelly Randolph, the victim’s father, is a reformed criminal who symbolizes the crisis of masculinity that has ravaged not only black families, but various communities across the nation.

I chose my hometown of Philadelphia as the location because of its complicated history and diversity. As the birthplace of our nation and one of America’s most segregated big cities, I thought it was the perfect setting for a social commentary on race relations in the U.S.

For a review of Hands Up, click here.

What books did you read as a child?
Any and all books I could get my hands on, including Dr. Seuss, Charlotte’s Web and The Diary of Anne Frank. As a child of the 80s, however, I fondly remember my addiction to the Choose Your Own Adventure book series.

What drew you to writing?
I believe I was born with a passion for writing. I’ve been keeping a journal as far back as I can remember. As a teenager, I wrote plays for my church. And in college, I wrote and directed a couple of films. I got away from creative writing when I became a journalist. I’m thrilled to be doing it once again.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Write a novel. I believe the younger you start, the greater the chances you will have success later on.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book.
The exhaustive and exhausting kind. There’s nothing too insignificant for me to research. Whether it’s women’s fashion, ethnic cuisines or cultural dialects, I’m always looking to expand my horizons in an effort to capture authentic portrayals. That results in an excessive amount of research time before, during and after the writing process. I rely on knowledgeable sources, personal field trips, as well as books and news articles for my research.

Who is your favorite author?
I have way too many to name. But in recent years, I’ve been obsessed with Gillian Flynn, Richard Lange and Nic Pizzolatto.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Oprah Winfrey, Alfred Hitchcock, Bill Maher, Jennifer Lopez and Al Green.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
Direct films.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Crafter Hooks a Killer



Samantha Kane is happily operating the craft shop owned by her late friend Kate Allen in Heartsford, Wisconsin. In A Crafter Hooks a Killer by Holly Quinn, Sammy is readying the shop for a visit from famous crochet author Jane Johnson.  Jane is so taken by the community concept of the shop, she has devoted a full chapter to it in her newest book. 

Nothing could make Sammy happier and she has planned an author signing for Saturday. She knows Jane Johnson will be a huge draw and many of her crafters are looking forward to the author's visit. When Jane arrives, she tells Sammy she has some information about Kate's death, and maybe it wasn't the accident everyone thinks it was. She wants to speak to Sammy privately so she asks her to meet her on the walking path. 

Unfortunately before they can discuss Kate's death, Sammy discovers Jane strangled by a piece of crocheted material, clutching her latest book in her hands with the words THE End raggedly scratched into the cover. Horrified, Sammy is determined to discover what Jane wanted to tell her. Sammy gathers her sister Ellie and her cousin Heidi together to investigate. They call themselves S.H.E. and they have plans to find the killer and possibly discover what really happened to Kate. 

One thing standing in the way of their investigation is police detective Liam Nash who doesn't look to kindly on the interference by S.H.E.  He cautions Sammy and her cohorts to stay out of the investigation, but that only inspires them to pursue their angles. 

As Sammy tries to unravel Jane's murder, she discovers some disturbing facts about her friend Kate's death. This is the second in a series that promises to be filled with crafty ideas and bright, intuitive women solving crimes. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Death in a Desert Land

Author Andrew Wilson places Agatha Christie in another unusual spot in Death in a Desert Land. Recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service to find the truth behind the deaths of noted antiquities expert in Iraq Gertrude Bell and Lt. Colonel Bertram Keeling, late husband of Katherine Woolley. Both deaths were listed as suicides. Mrs. Woolley is now married to Leonard Woolley, the expedition leader at Ur.

There have been strange goings on and it seems Mrs. Woolley is something a a Jekyll and Hyde character. She is charming and sophisticated, then angry and abrasive, and in some cases threatening. 

When the letters written by by Gertrude Bell turn up two years after her death, they point to murder. In them Gertrude claimed someone at the site was trying to kill her. That's why Davison decides to sen Agatha to Iraq. 

Thrilled at the prospect of traveling on the famed Orient Express, and with the opportunity to investigate, Agatha sets off for Ur. It's a mixed bag of workers at the site. There's archaeologist and head of the expedition Leonard Woolley, his wife Katharine, a Jesuit priest who can transcribe Cuneiform text, an American photographer, the reliable spinster secretary, and architect and his recalcitrant nephew. Guests include a wealthy American man and his wife and daughter. He believes the site is the birthplace of Abraham and hopes to invest in the expedition.

Tensions are already high even without Katharine's bizarre outburst, but when she is found with her pet cat Tom dead on her bed, everyone is more than concerned. Has she gone mad?

When one of the group is murdered, Agatha tries to set a trap for the killer while they wait for Davison and the local police to arrive. 

Another tantalizing mystery for Agatha Christie to unravel. I love seeing her in settings outside her books. After you read Death in a Desert Land, I recommend you read A Talent For Murder, also starring Agatha Christie in a blend of fact and fiction. Click here for a review 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Lattes and Lies

Not a regular member of Memaw's book club, Kirby Jackson is excited to attend this evening's meeting. In Lattes and Lies by Christine Zane Thomas, Kirby's favorite author Pam Isley is the guest of honor. 

It turns out Pam had purchased a condo on Gaiman Island, Florida, and decides to attend the book club meeting to introduce her latest book in the series. Although this new book is part of the series, it is more of a thriller rather than a cozy. And ten years has passed from the last book to the newest one, The Dog Woofed Premeditation. 

The book club meeting is held at the Elks Club and it is a full house. Kirby is nervous about attending because he is sure he will see Avett. He had been on one date with Barb's niece Avett before he had been accused of murdering his friend Ryan. Now cleared of the murder, Kirby isn't sure if he should try to resume the relationship.

Before long the guest of honor appears and it turns out she knows Avett's Aunt Barb from her college days, although Barb doesn't seem that enthused to see Pam again. After the meeting, Kirby and Avett decide to leave and found something besides the pot luck dinner to eat.  They head back to Kirby's coffee shop/comic book store Kapow Koffee to pick up Gambit, Kirby's dachshund, then to dinner.

After dinner Kirby drives Avett back to her aunt's house and she offers to lend his the newest Pam Isley's latest book. While Kirby waits outside, Avett suddenly rushes out to tell him her aunt is dead. There's no sign of trauma, no blood on the body and Barb had a DNR order, so they cannot administer CPR. 

Twitchy from his last encounter with the police, Kirby is leery about calling them, but they arrive and clearly decide Barb, who had bouts with cancer, died from natural causes. Unfortunately after the police leave with the body, Avett discovers vomit in the toilet and thinks maybe her aunt died from food poisoning.  

As Kirby and Avett investigate they discover Barb was very secretive. Hardly anyone new she had had cancer, no one know she had a boyfriend and to top it off, no one knew she was the inspiration for Pam Isley's famous novels. 

Now it's up to Kirby and Avett to figure out who killed Aunt Barb and why. A clever mystery with avid fans trying to solve the crime. 


Disclosure: I received this book from the author.
.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Murder in Black Tie

High Society Lady Detective Olive Belgrave receives an invitation to a house party at the estate of Parkview Hall. In Murder in Black Tie by Sara Rosett, Olive is facing a mini crisis housing crisis but encounters tension among the house guests and especially between her cousin Gwen and Inspector Longly. (Murder in Black Tie will be available on October 15.)

Her uncle and aunt have invited several people including new heiress Deena Lacey, Captain Thomas Inglebrook, Lady Gina Alton and Vincent Payne as well as Olive's father and stepmother. Mr. Payne is an avid map collector and he thinks everyone should own one of the antique maps he has to sell. Sir Leo, an avid collector, has been deciding which of Payne's maps he might purchase. Mr. Payne has a bit of a reputation as a rogue, so Olive is hopeful Sir Leo will not be duped.

Among the other guests are Olive's cousin and Gwen's brother Peter, a survivor of the Great War with no injuries, but with his mind disturbed. He seems to be getting better, but when he is found in the conservatory kneeling unseeing over the dead body of Mr. Payne, Olive worries he may have relapsed. Peter also has a swollen eye and it appears he may have been in a fight.

With Inspector Longly in the house, it doesn't take long for the investigation to begin and all eyes are on Peter. He doesn't remember anything after entering the conservatory and has no idea about his swollen eye. But Olive knows her gentle cousin would not kill anyway and she also recalls the flash of color she saw when she entered the conservatory. This leads her to believe someone else was in the conservatory with Mr. Payne.

As Olive investigates, she discovers some disturbing information about her stepmother Sonia, someone she has not always cared for.  As she digs deeper, she discovers several connection to the late Mr. Payne adding to the suspect list.

Another elegant mystery set in one of the opulent homes of the wealthy in England. I love this series - the gowns, the jewels and the stately homes. Sigh. Think Downton Abbey for a setting.

Disclosure: I received this book from the author.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Interview with Melissa Ramirez

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
August was a busy month for me. I had two book release. Flour in the Attic, (as Winnie Archer) which is book
Melissa Ramirez
4 in the Bread Shop Mysteries, and What Lola Wants, book 4 in the Lola Cruz Mystery series. These were my 16th and 17th books. It’s hard to believe, actually! I’ve written three different mystery series (Magical Dressmaking Mysteries, Bread Shop Mysteries, and the Lola Cruz PI Mysteries), as well as two romantic suspense novels and a light paranormal romance. These last three I’m in the process of indy publishing.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
My series ideas have always started with the characters. I first developed Lola Cruz as a woman with whom my daughter could someday relate. At the time, there was not much diversity in these types of book series. I wanted to create a character that represented my daughter’s Latina side, who loved her culture, but who was also completely American. Before long Lola had a family, a passion for PI work, and the series was born. The series is set in Sacramento because that is where we lived at the time and I wanted to write within a familiar setting.

Ivy Culpepper, from the Bread Shop Mysteries, started with a name. I love the name Ivy and I always thought Culpepper was a fierce last name. Viola! She existed in my mind. I chose to create a fictional central California coastal town for the setting of these books because it was so different from Sacramento, the setting for the Lola Cruz books, and from Bliss, Texas, which is the setting in the Magical Dressmaking Mysteries. I grew up in California and have such wonderful memories of visiting towns like Abtos and Santa Cruz. I wanted to revisit these places in the Bread Shop series.

What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy?
I love being able to spend time with these characters who are so much a part of me. When I sit down to write, I feel like I’m hanging out with friends. That is absolutely the best part of being a writer. It blows my mind sometimes when I realize that so many people have read my books and therefore have basically been inside my imagination. I’ve brought entire communities to life. Knowing that my books resonate with my readers is a fantastic feeling.

On the flip side, the writing life can be isolating. I have to be very intentional about meeting people and doing things outside of my writing world. Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
Every one of my main characters, and some of my victims, have characteristics or life situations that pull from real life. I think there are elements of myself in each of my heroines. I like to say that Lola Cruz is my alter ego…if I were a young Latina sassy smart PI! With each book, the characters evolve and become more and more themselves, but there will always be little pieces of me in them.

My stories almost always have some real life element in them. The mysteries are often “ripped from the headlines”, and then molded or combined or finessed to become the mystery I want to write about.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
That’s a tough question! I think that life is a journey, and while there have been struggles along the way, I don’t know that I would change anything if I had the opportunity to. I pushed through the hard times with the writing career, never giving up, even in the face of rejections early on. I guess I’d tell my younger writing self to hang in there, because it will happen!

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
I have given this some thought, specifically with the Lola Cruz series. Jennifer Lopez’s production company considered it for a TV series years ago. Unfortunately they passed, but now my dream is that Gina Rodriguez discovers the books. I really do think there is a place for Lola Cruz on the small screen. My dream cast for that series (based on Timothy and Jimmy/Mark being a bit younger!) is:

Lola: Gina Rodriguez
Jack: Timothy Olyphant
Manny: Jimmy Smits or Mark Consuelo
Reilly: Merrit Wever

I always envisioned Sandra Bullock from her Hope Floats era, as Harlow Cassidy in the Magical Dressmaking Mysteries.

And Emma Stone is my Go To inspiration for Ivy Culpepper.

Who is your favorite author?
I don’t have an all time favorite author, but I have a long list of overall favorites!


Agatha Christie, of course. I spent my high school years reading every one of her books.
I currently enjoying Ruth Ware’s novels, and I have read all of Liane Moriarty’s books. I’ve been enjoying Elin Hilderbrand’s novels lately. I read pretty widely and am always discovering new authors.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Agatha Christie, for sure. She’s almost mythical to me. I would love to know her and see how her brain works!
Barak and Michelle Obama. To have a conversation with these two incredible and influential people would be amazing and impactful.
Oprah Winfrey. I grew up watching Oprah. I admire what she’s accomplished in her life, and her altruistic nature. I’d love to spend time with her.
Gina Rodriguez. This woman is inspirational. She’s become such a powerful voice in Hollywood and I admire all she does to support diversity in her industry.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
I’ve been a teacher (mostly middle school) for many, many years. I started teaching out of college, then took time off to raise our kids. That is when I began to focus on writing. I’ve gone back to teaching through the years, both because it’s hard to make a living as a writer and because I love being in the classroom with students and sharing my passion for words, language, and books. I don’t know if I’ll go back to the classroom again, but if I couldn’t write, that’s definitely where I’d be.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Beware the East Wind

Mah Jongg buddies Marianne, Syd, Micki and Kat find themselves in the midst of another murder investigation. In Beware the East Wind by Barbara Barrett, the women attend a fundraising where a hypnotist is the featured entertainment. Kind of unusual, but they decide to go with the flow. 

When Syd's husband Trip volunteers to be a subject at the dinner they are all surprised but anxious to see what happens. Not true believers, they wonder what the volunteers will do. 

After she has the close their eyes and relax, she ask each of them to re-enact an embarrassing moment. When it's Trip's turn, he pantomimes an errant golf swing. When he returns to their table, he asks what he did while under hypnosis and claims he doesn't remember anything. 

Alice Erskine lives in town and runs a boutique catering service for dinner parties up to twelve people. A few days later Erskine is found dead in her car, strangled by a seatbelt. One of the prime suspects is her catering partner Portia. who had been heard having an acrimonious discussion with Alice.  Portia is Guy Whitney's sister and Kat knows him from her playwriting classes. He begs them to clear his sister, but they are reluctant. Having nearly gotten themselves killed the last time they investigated, they promised their significant others they would stay out of the cases. But this one is too tempting. 

Roping in their husbands, Trip and Beau, gives the four pals additional support and they set out to investigate Erskine. They soon discover Erskine was not an ethical hypnotist and they wonder if she had been blackmailing her clients. They also discover her husband was an unscrupulous businessman and might be the killer himself. 

To complicate matters a dangerous hurricane is brewing off the coast of Florida and taking aim at their homes. Beware the East Wind has an exciting climax and promises to include the four Mah Jongg friends in other adventures. 


Disclosure: I received this book from the author. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Bodies in the Library

Newly appointed curator of The First Edition Society, an organization dedicated to first editions by women authors from the Golden Age of Mystery, Hayley Burke is in trouble from her first day. In The Bodies in the Library by Marty Wingate, Hayley's dilemma is she has never read a mystery - let alone one by the Golden Age authors. (The Bodies in the Library will be released on October 9 by Berkley Prime Crime.)

Trying to hide this flaw, she plans to begin her tenure by allowing a group of Agatha Christie fan fiction writers, to meet in Middlebank House, the home of the Society. They are a motley crew. 

There's Harry, a young woman writing about Miss Marple and the baby she gave up for adoption years ago. Then there's Peter and Marietta. Both are using Hercule Poirot as their character, but Marietta's Poirot has superpowers. Amanda has been re-working the same ten pages of her Tommy and Tuppence series. Lastly, Trist, the de facto leader of the group writing about Miss Marple and Zombies. 

The Society's prim secretary Mrs Woolgar holds a dim view of the writers group and lets her displeasure show with every word. Undaunted Hayley believes letting the writers meet in Middlebank House will be an entre into the local writing scene. 

When one of the writers is found dead in the Middlebank House library, both Hayley and Mrs. Woolgar are fearful. They both live in the house and despite an alarm system, they never heard any thing suspicious and the house was securely locked. 

Worried about the writers and the reputation of The Society, Hayley thinks she should investigate, but doesn't know where to begin. Her mother encourages her to read The Body in the Library (appropriately enough) and that plunges her into reading everything Christie and trying to emulate Miss Marple. 

Using Miss Marple's ability to listen without being seen, Hayley starts to piece together the solution, but in the process almost gets herself killed. 

A terrific beginning to a new series, although I am still puzzled by the title. 

Disclosure: I received this book from the published via Netgalley. 

Friday, October 4, 2019

Hands Up

Hands Up by Stephen Clark is not usually the type of mystery I review, but the subject matter is ripped from the headlines today and needs a voice. Although not technically a mystery, Hands Up is a worthy read.

The lives of three people are changed forever on the fateful night when a white police officer kills a black motorist. Ryan Quinn and his partner Greg Byrnes make the traffic stop and suddenly Tyrell Wakefield is dead. 

When an eyewitness video disputes the police officers account, Tyrell’s family including his sister Jade and his long missing father Kelly Randolph fight for justice. 

Jade has long had emotional issues especially after her father Kelly Randolph abandoned the family years ago. She has taken to cutting herself to get some emotional release.

Kelly has always been involved with some bad people and after he kills a man, he decides he needs to leave town. When he sees the news about his son's death on TV, he decides to take a chance and return to Philadelphia. His attempts to reconcile with his wife Regina fall flat and he finds himself living in a homeless shelter, but still leading protests against the police shooting of his son. 

Clark weaves a compelling tale of truth, the search for justice and repentance
Through it all the lives of the people involved will never be the same. Fear of the unknown, racism and violence make for a lethal combination where no one walks away untouched.



Disclosure: I received this book from the author.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Something Borrowed, Something Mewed

Nothing screams tacky as a bridesmaids dress inspired by the Statute of Liberty. In Something Borrowed, Something Mewed by Bethany Blake, Daphne Templeton's sister Piper is getting married. Their mother insists on hiring Sylvan Creek's top wedding planner Abigail Sinclair. 

Before long there are major problems including six weddings booked for the same time and place and the hideous bridesmaid dresses, but more importantly, a dead wedding planner. Daphne finds Abigail in a fountain with a garter tied around her neck on Piper's wedding day. She figures with so many weddings disrupted, there should be plenty of suspects. 

When her prospective brother-in-law cannot account for his time the evening of the murder, Daphne struggles to clear him from suspicion.  Because all the mayhem, Piper decides to postpone her wedding until Roger can be cleared. 

With the mothers-in-law at loose ends, their budding
friendship takes a turn towards unhealthy competition, when Roger's mother becomes the listing agent for Abigail's house. But Daphne has issues of her own to deal with. Her boyfriend Jonathan Black has been working as a consultant on a naval base in San Diego. His Navy SEAL experience has made him valuable and he has been offered a full-time job in San Diego. 

Daphne wades through all the possible suspects and thinks she is headed in the right direction until someone else is murdered. Now she must double down on her investigation to clear her family. 

Another intriguing mystery with a full range of suspects. As Daphne is a pet sitter by trade, there are also some homemade pet treat recipes. 



Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher. 


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Interview with Connie Berry

Connie Berry 
What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
A Legacy of Murder, the second in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, will be released in just six days. So that makes exactly two! I'm in awe of writers with a lengthy backlist, and while I can never catch up, I am working on the third in the series, tentatively entitled A Pattern of Betrayal.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
My main character, Kate Hamilton, and I share certain things in common—most importantly, the fact that we were both raised by antiques collectors and dealers. Since I love incorporating history into my stories, giving Kate expertise in antiques made sense. She's a kind of "antiques whisperer," with a gift not only for locating and identifying fine objects, but also for discerning patterns and making connections that others miss. Each of the books features an extraordinary object from the past. In A Dream of Death that object was a fabulous marquetry casket (a small chest) that held clues to a brutal murder. In my new book, that object is a sixteenth-century, blood-red ruby ring that points back in time to a centuries-old legacy of murder.

A Dream of Death was located on a fictional island in the Scottish Hebrides. I wanted Kate and Detective Inspector Tom Mallory to meet in a place where they were both outsiders and could team up and combine their unique skills, unhampered by official procedures. The second book, A Legacy of Murder, takes them to Tom's home territory of Suffolk, England. Operating on his own patch gives Tom insider information but also limits his ability to share that information with Kate. Nevertheless, because he learned to respect her abilities in Scotland, he knows he can trust her. As for Suffolk itself as a setting, A Legacy of Murder is set in the fictional village of Long Barston, not unlike the wonderful real village of Long Melford. I love Suffolk—in my opinion one of England's least visited and most underrated areas. My husband and I have spent a lot of time there and enjoy walking the countryside paths and exploring the impossibly quaint villages. Suffolk has a rich and ancient history, reaching back beyond the Anglo-Saxons to Roman Britain—an intriguing place to uncover old secrets and patterns of thinking and behavior that just might lead to murderous intent in the present.

For a review of A Legacy of Murder click here.

What do you enjoy about the author's lifestyle? What do you not enjoy?
There's so much I enjoy about the author's lifestyle—creating interesting characters and putting them in unusual and stressful circumstances; spending lots of mental time in the UK; the act of plotting story and character arcs; using words to convey both meaning and emotion. I adore the process of revision and refinement, polishing language, and pairing down to essentials. I love research, especially historical research and on-scene research, which means occasional trips to the UK. A year ago in October I had the privilege of spending a day with a detective inspector in the Suffolk Constabulary. That day was amazing and helpful. I love setting my own schedule and working at home with my Keurig nearby and my sweet dog, Millie, to keep me company. What I don't enjoy as much is the promotional aspect. I don't feel comfortable tooting my own horn or asking people to buy my books. But if authors don't do it, who will? Gone are the days when authors can leave the business of writing to others.

Do you model your character after yourself or anyone you know?
In part. Characters do come from our brains after all—from people we've known or observed; from experiences we've had ourselves or heard about from others. I can't speak for others, but my characters are amalgams of many people. Kate Hamilton is like me in some ways—in her background, her interest in the past, and in her curiosity and obsession with solving mysteries (my kids used to call me "Sherlock Holmes"). But she isn't like me in her tragic past, having lost her brother, father, and husband—all suddenly and without warning. Thankfully, I'm not a widow. And she isn't like me in her reluctance to leave her past behind and move forward. I like nothing better than experiencing new things. Kate's mother, Linnea, is very like my mother in her passion for research and documenting the antiques she sold; but Linnea is more logical and plain-speaking than my mother. In that she is a lot like a dear aunt. The same could be said for all my characters. They are patchworks of many people, both real and fictional.

If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be?
That's an easy one! I'd say: "Take the time to study and learn story structure." I tend to be impulsive and would rather just begin a task than do the needed preparation. This cost me time and a whole bunch of wasted words. For my first book, I have at least as many words in my outtakes file than ever made it into the final version. My only consolation is thinking I may pull those words out sometime and use them again.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
One thing I know for sure is that I wouldn't want any of the flashy Hollywood types with their perfect bodies, bleached-white smiles, and botoxed faces. I admire the depth and believability of British actors who look like real people. Kate is 46, after all. She's had two children. Her jeans feel tight around the waist at times. Since you ask, I might choose a young Emma Thompson or perhaps Jennifer Ehle—and she could do a believable Midwestern accent.

Who is your favorite author?
Just one?! If I had to read only one author, it might be Dame Agatha or Ngaio Marsh because they were so prolific. My favorites today include Anthony Horowitz, Deborah Crombie, Charles Todd, Tana French, Jodi Taylor, Susan Hill, Ruth Ware…. (better stop).

If you could invite five people—living or dead—to a dinner party, who would they be?
I can think of so many—mostly dead (what does that say about me?). But a dinner party is memorable mostly for the conversation, so I think I would choose a theme—authors who wrote during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction (roughly the 1920s and 1930s). So dinner for six would include Agatha Christie, Cyril Hare, Dorothy L. Sayers, G. K. Chesterton, and Georges Simenon. I would take the sixth place at the table and begin by asking them each to expound on "the perfect murder mystery." Then, because by this time (with great food and glasses of a terrific red wine) they'd be chatting freely, I'd just sit back, listen, and take it all in. Perfect!

If you could not be an author, what would you like to do as a career?
I've already done it. For twenty-five years I lectured on theology and loved every minute. Then I turned to writing about murder. Hmm. Now that I don't have to go to work every day (writing is difficult, challenging, and often painful, but it isn't work), I think I'd knit one-of-a-kind sweaters and jackets out of lovely natural fibers and sell them on Etsy.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Two Bites Too Many

All their lives, it has been their mother guiding them through to adulthood. Now Sarah and Emily Blair have become "the Parent" as they try to clear their mother of murder.  In Two Bites Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein, Maybelle is found with blood on her hands leaning over the body of the bank president. (Two Bites Too Many was published by Kensington Books on September 24.)

That's bad enough, but Lance Knowlton had just rejected  Emily's plans for a bridge loan to remodel her burned out restaurant and also open an upscale one in Sarah's vintage house. Lance claims his loan officer Bailey turned them down, even though Maybelle had guaranteed the loan. 

As they are leaving Lance's office another angry bank client tries to force his way into the office. It seems Lance and Bailey had called Cliff's loan for no apparent reason, angering him as well as Maybelle. 

When Lance is found dead in his office, there are plenty of suspects but none as apparent as Maybelle. While trying to clear her mother, Sarah discovers some interesting facts about Cliff, Thomas and her neighbor George Rogers that might make them all suspects. While Emily waits for her loan to be approved for the restaurant repairs, she unwisely decides to work as a chef for Thomas Howell at his Birmingham Howellian luxury hotel. Sarah warns her not to do it because she believes the hotel's restaurant might be competition for Southwinds and Emily's association with both might be confusing. 

Debra H. Goldstein has written another witty, charming mystery featuring her intrepid amateur sleuth Sarah Blair. 

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Murder in the Balcony

If you love classic movies, you will love A Movie Palace Mystery series and the latest installment Murder in the Balcony. Author Margaret Dumas is a classic movie buff and her characters that populate the Palace Theater are huge fans as well.

Nora Paige, fresh from her separation from action hero actor Ted Bishop, operates The Palace Theater on a shoestring with a motley crew of employees. Her best friend is a ghost - Trixie, an usherette who died from a fall in the balcony in 1937.  When one of her employees, Callie Gee, expresses concerns about her missing boyfriend, Nora tries to ease her concerns.

Before long the police discover Warren dead in his apartment. They theorize he discovered a home intruder and was killed by the burglar. Callie doesn't believe it and she wants Nora to investigate. Warren left a cryptic message on Callie's phone telling her his boss would not believe who he has seen together. No one knows what this means. 

Nora has her hands full when she discovers a real estate developer is threatening to buy up the properties around her theater and possibly even the Palace itself. Hoping she can coerce the four owners not to sell, she probes around to discover who the developer is. 

Adding to Nora's concerns are what to do about reconciling with her husband. She waivers between divorce and reconciliation until she reads about his resumed affair with the woman he left Nora for. Figuring she should just file for divorce and get her share of his money, she orders her attorney to file. What she doesn't know is that Ted has spent all their money.

A Movie Palace Mystery series is one of my favorite new series. I have always been a huge classic movie fan and the movies featured in the series are among my favorites. The characters are a bunch of oddballs, but they fit the profile of classic movie theater buffs and are fun to read about. Pick up this delightful series. 

Disclosure: I received this book from the author. 



Friday, September 27, 2019

A Cup of Christmas Fear

This week on MapYourMystery.com was bookended by Ellie Alexander. Monday I reviewed Beyond a Reasonable Stout and today it's A Cup of Holiday Fear's turn. (A Cup of Holiday Fear was released by St. Martin's Press on September 24.) These books are part of two dynamic and different series written by Ellie Alexander and I have enjoyed both very much.

It's holiday time in Ashland, Oregon, and Torte is hopping. The renovations are complete and the kitchen is running smoothly. In a Cup of Christmas Fear, Jules is thrilled with the increase in business and the capable staff she has assembled. Holidays mean an increase in traffic and Jules is ready for it. 

As a special treat for her staff, Jules plans to take them to the annual Dickens feast at the Winchester Hotel operated by the McBeth family. The dinner has been a holiday tradition in Ashland for decades and the Victorian house looks straight out of a fairy tale - decorated with flickering white lights and candles glowing in the windows. 

During dinner a woman and two men are seated next to Jules'party. Emma McBeth seems to be taking extra care of her guest, but the woman proves not only to be opinionated, but rude as well. When a tray of Yorkshire pudding falls and spatters debris on her clothes, Cami erupts and says she is firing the waiter. Shocked by her outburst, everyone soon learns that the McBeth's have decided to retire and sell the Inn to Cami. Unbeknownst to them, Cami is planning to fire the entire staff and demolish the lovely Inn.  

When Cami winds up dead, the entire McBeth family are considered suspects. Jules knows she needs to help find the murderer and sets off with her pal Lance to do just that.  

I always crave pastries and great coffee when I read these books. Good thing there are no actual calories in reading. 


Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

A Legacy of Murder

American antique dealer Kate Hamilton plans to spend the holiday season with her daughter Christine who is an intern at a stately, but crumbling home in Long Barton, England. In A Legacy of Murder by Connie Berry, Kate has an ulterior motive and it takes the shape of handsome police Detective Inspector Tom Mallory. (A Legacy of Murder will be published by Crooked Lane on October 8.)

Finchley Hall has been the ancestral home of Lady Barbara's family for centuries. She has scrambled to make repairs, but the crumbling house has almost outstripped her ability to raise funds. Now she is planning to display the Finchley Hoard, the legendary treasure trove stolen from the family in an uprising, but eventually returned. 

Interns, including Kate's daughter Christine, have been coordinating the exhibit and one in particular has been placing the various objects in the display and preparing the catalog. When Tabitha is found dead in a pond, her death brings back memories of other strange deaths surrounding the Hoard, including the previous coordinator of the exhibit who was murdered 23 years ago. Coincidentally or not, Lady Barbara's son disappeared about the same time. Many thought he had murdered the woman, but he fled to Venezuela. 

It is soon learned that Tabitha was pregnant leading some to think she killed herself. After an autopsy, DI Mallory proclaims it was murder and wonders if Lady Barbara's son has returned. Lady Barbara asks Kate to take over for Tabitha and make sure the exhibit of the Hoard goes off on schedule. 

As Kate pores over the organizational paperwork left behind by Tabitha, she begins to see some discrepancies in what has been included in the exhibit and what has not been included. With the assistance of an elderly local antique dealer, Kate discovers what is amiss and soon solves the murders. 

An excellent second book in the series and I look forward to what happens next with Kate and Tom and their long distance romance. 


Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Interview with Lauren Elliott

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My latest book is Murder in the First Edition to be released on September 24. It is the third in, what to date, will be a series of six, Beyond the Page Bookstore Mysteries.

In book one, Murder by the Book, readers discover that our protagonist Addison (Addie) Greyborne, a rare and old book expert from Boston has had, to say the least, a lousy year. Her fiancé was killed during a home invasion robbery, and her father died in a car accident. After that, a great-aunt she didn't know she had passed away and left Addie her entire estate, including an old Victorian house and all its contents. Addie had never heard of the town Greyborne Harbor, where the house was located, but the quaint New England coastal village seemed like the perfect place to start life afresh after suffering through her heart-breaking losses. Besides, the town and Addie share a name - Greyborne - so it must be fate, right?

Addie discovered her aunt’s house held a treasure trove of rare books and collectibles which Addie thought were too precious to be hoarded away in a dusty attic and should be shared with the world. Some of the books were of museum and library quality and others, though old and well-loved, had little monetary value but would be perfect in a used bookshop. Except the small town, she now called home didn’t have one. That was when she decided she would open her own book and curio shop. So Beyond the Page Books and Curios was born, and then the peaceful new life she had envisioned became anything but... it wasn’t long before her reputation lay in ruin, and evidence pointed to her as a suspect in the murder of a local merchant. All this before she’d even finished unpacking and settling into her new home.

If readers love stories that are centered on bookstores and rare books, then they’re going to enjoy following the adventures of Addie, Serena, her best friend and local tea merchant, plus the other cast of colorful characters in the quaint seaside town of Greyborne Harbor where murder and mystery are not … uncommon.

For a review of Murder in the First Edition, click here.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
As far as developing my character Addie Greyborne, the inspiration behind my Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery series, came to me a number of years ago. I had a good friend who owned a small used bookshop and being the book lover I am, it became my second home. Her shop was my vision of the perfect bookstore - old and rare books, a reading corner, charming knick-knacks and a bay window display that she decorated to highlight the season and one that never failed to attract passersby.

When I had more time to devote to writing, my old reading friend, Agatha Christie emerged, and the first image that came to mind was my real-life friend Maggie and her bookshop. From there, Addie’s was born. Even though, Beyond the Page Books & Curios is an expanded version of my friends, it’s one that I hope, through my writing, reflects the same feeling to readers as Maggie’s did to her customers. Which, is an environment where you want to browse, stay and in general, enjoy the ambiance of comfy reading chairs along with the aroma of fresh brewed coffee niggling at your nose - a place that feels like home away from home … well, except perhaps for the murder and mayhem surrounding Addie’s bookstore.

Massachusetts, a state rich with history and culture seemed the ideal location in which to base Addie’s stories because it lends itself to a wide range of possible story plots. For example, the second book in the series has references to pirate legends and buried treasure.

What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy?
As long as I can remember, I’ve been penning short stories or poems or plotting and writing a novel. It’s always been something I did. It’s natural for me like breathing. I suppose I’ve never thought of it as a lifestyle, it’s just who I am.

There are times as a published author when you do feel the pressures of deadlines, and I think a quote I once read by Agatha Christie best sums it up. “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don't want to, don't much like what you're writing, and aren't writing particularly well.”

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
Most of my characters are roughly based on people whom I have crossed paths with in some way during my life, but their individual characteristics can be a combination of more than one person. Keen observation skills are required in fiction writing. There was an important lesson that I learned while studying journalism. It was that a person speaks more and exhibits more clearly their true intentions through their body language than the words they convey. This is something I attempt to incorporate into all my characterizations – the little nuances, such as a lip or cheek twitch, biting one’s lip when stressed or thinking, an occasional eye roll, a slight tic of the head or shoulders, a fleeting smirk or snicker. It’s those small things that give us a more detailed glimpse into a person’s character than just writing their dialogue and telling readers what color their hair is or describing their body build.

My whole life the stories have just come to me. I have always been an observer of people and made-up stories about them as I watched them. It might be something as insignificant as a woman sitting alone in a café and the look on her face or the set of her shoulders, or a twitch of her eye as she glances around the room. I start to wonder what her life is like, what her story is, why she’s there, why is she alone? Character development comes from the old who, what, where, when, why and how of journalism based on those observations, we make daily. If I don’t write an actual story about the woman in the café, I will at least file her away in my memory banks to use those observations for a character in one of my books later.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would tell myself to remember that writing is a learned craft and an evolving process. Don’t ever give up. It’s your passion and to also remember very few writers have the success of JK Rowling or Stephen King. It took them over twenty years to reach the success levels they enjoy today, and in the beginning of their writing careers. They too received enough rejection letters from agents and publishers to wallpaper their home offices with before someone took a chance on them. Be prepared for the long haul, a lot of hard work, and the ability to develop a thick skin, but always remember why you are persevering and keep writing because if you don’t, a part of you will shrivel up and die.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
As a very visual person, I have a file dedicated to images of how I hope to illustrate, through my words. The town and region my Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery series is centered. When I created the character of Addie Greyborne, the visual that came to mind was of actress Bethany Joy Lenz, who has appeared in a number of television movies. I maintained an image of her in my head as my character developed. Conversely, I recently watched a movie starring actress Sarah White Drew. She used to play the part of Dr. April Kepner in the ABC medical drama series Grey's Anatomy and thought she too, would make a perfect Addie Greyborne. So I would be delighted to see either woman take on the lead role.

Who is your favorite author?
I don’t have one favorite author. I have many whom I enjoy reading. I did grow up devouring the entire Nancy Drew series and then graduated to Victoria Holt, Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Barbara Erskine, Lynn Kurland, and Michael Crichton to name a few. However, if you were to take a peek at my current TBR list, you’d find an assortment of authors and genres. There’s everything from cozies, to time travel and gothic mystery romance.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
For me, the dinner-party list wouldn’t be complete without Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. As both are masters of the craft of mystery writing. Then I would add another author, who can provide extensive insight into human character and behavior, Michael Crichton. That being said for fear that the dinner conversation would perhaps become a little intense for other guests, I would most certainly include English actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer John Cleese for some comedic relief. I guess my fifth esteemed guest would have to be Queen Elizabeth I, as I have had life-long fascination with her life and the Elizabethan period in general.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
Career wise, I have led a very diverse life to date. There are few hats I’ve not worn in my working career. I believe all of my experiences were presented to me for one singular reason, and that was to gather and study people and situations, so that I might better incorporate my learned knowledge into my writing. As far as desiring another career, there is nothing else I would even consider pursuing. I am now living my dream.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

After You've Gone

Twenty-something Walter MacGregor longs for adventure, but her father keeps her on a tight leash. In After You've Gone by Kay Kendall, Wallie yearns for adventure so she can be the female Sherlock Holmes.

When her father's ne'er-do-well rum running brother returns to Gunmetal, Texas, after  20 years away, she thinks she might have the beginnings of her adventure. She tries to learn what sent Rory MacGregor off to Galveston and other parts unknown, but he is tight lipped about his previous life. He does let on that his girlfriend's husband might be trying to kill him. He keeps promising to tell Wallie his story, but something always interferes. 

That tantalizes Wallie and she is determined to learn more about his exploits, to her judge father's dismay and the annoyance of her Aunt Ida. When a freak accident claims a life and the police chief and her father refuse to believe it wasn't an accident, Wallie tries to prove them wrong. She coerces her aunt to take her to Galveston so she can investigate Rory's life and become acquainted with his friends, especially her girlfriend Vivian.

When arrive in Galveston, they find it a rough and tumble, lawless place in the 1920s. Using the few names of places Rory frequent in Galveston, she tracks down the Chop Suey Club owned by two brothers from Sicily. Thinking the Club is a fine restaurant, she encourages her aunt to take her there. What she discovers are several flappers and a couple of gangsters who knew Rory. 

The hijacks continue as she and the gangsters are menaced by several other gangsters from Chicago. All in all Wallie has a wonderful adventure and discovers some vital information in her case.  When she returns home, she is able to solve the case and find true love. 

After You've Gone is a prequel to the Austin Starr Mystery series, but it is a fine standalone novel. 


Disclosure: I received the book from the publisher.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Beyond a Reasonable Stout

The bustle of Oktberfest is over and there's a lull before the Christmas festivities begin in Leavenworth, Washington. In Beyond a Reasonable Stout by Ellie Alexander, Sloan Krause is happy for the reprieve. It gives her time to plan Nitro's holiday beers. But there's trouble in Leavenworth because of a candidate in the city council election. Kristopher Cooper wants to pass an ordinance to make Leavenworth a dry town. (Beyond a Reasonable Stout will be released on October 1 St. Martin's Press.)

Almost everyone in town is opposed to the suggestion especially as most businesses make their money from selling alcohol and Leavenworth bills itself as Beervaria. After an enormous rally for Valerie Hedy, his opponent, Kristopher is seen arguing with several people including Leavenworth “ambassador” April Ablin. When Kristopher’ body is found in April’s real estate office the next morning, Chief Meyers arrests April. She begs Sloan to help prove she didn't kill Kristopher. 


Sloan has her own issues with her soon to be ex-husband Mac. He wants their son to help him find a place to live and Sloan is worried her son will be placed in the middle of their divorce. Mac still holds out hope that he and Sloan will get back together again, but she's adamant that will not happen. 


While Sloan attempts to untangle Kristopher's murder, she discovers many secrets about her neighbors including the other candidate for city council. As for secrets, Sloan is still trying to discover who her parents were and why they gave her up. 

For Nitro beer fans, Beyond a Reasonable Stout doesn't disappoint. Sloan and Garrett blend some tasty beers. I especially love all the new beer flavors and wish we had a brewery like Nitro nearby, but Ellie Alexander ends this book with a cliffhanger. Hope she hurries up and writes the next book soon. 



Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley.