Millie Fisher moves back to her Amish community in Harvest, Ohio, after tending to her ill sister in Michigan. In Matchmaking Can Be Murder by Amanda Flower, Millie is a matchmaker and she notices love is not flourishing in Harvest including her with niece Edith. (Matchmaking Can Be Murder will be released by Kensington Publishing Corp. on December 31.) Edith, a widow, has been engaged to rude, greedy Zeke Miller since the winter and the wedding is occurring soon. But Edith doesn't appear to be marrying Zeke for love. When she tells her aunt, she plans to break off the engagement, Millie is not surprised. It doesn't appear Edith is in love with Zeke and is only marrying him for the welfare of her children. When Zeke turns up dead in Edith's greenhouse from a blow to his head, the police believe Edith killed him. Millie knows her sweet, quiet niece could not have killed Zeke, but she needs to investigate to determine who did. As she learns more about Zeke, she learns his main goal in marrying Edith was to take control of her highly successful business, but Zeke was not a good businessman and he drove customers and employees away. Millie also learns he was seeing someone else, and not a woman from the Amish community. When she learns the other woman is the niece of her best friend, she fears for their newly reconnected friendship. With her friend Lois Henry as her sidekick, the Amish Marple, as Lois called Millie, begin to weed out suspects. A very entertaining and enlightening book about the life and times of the Amish community, plus an interesting mystery. Looking forwards to the two senior detectives' next adventure. Matchmacking Can Be Murder is the first in a new series by Amanda Flower, and it overlaps with the Amish Candy Stop series featuring non-Amish candymaker Bailey King.
What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published? My debut book, Murder’s No Votive Confidence, came out in June. It was the first of
the Nantucket Candle Maker Mysteries, and I’m excited to share that Murder Makes Scents will be available starting February 25, 2020. I see this second book in the series as “cozy mystery” meets “action-adventure.” Stella will be tackling international espionage, entertaining her mother who is visiting, and puzzling over the odd behaviors of her boyfriend, Peter – all while keeping her candle business going strong. For a review of Murder's No Votive Confidence, click here.
What was the most recent book you read? I recently enjoyed Nancy Thayer’s Let It Snow. I love her Nantucket settings and cozy appeal.
How did you develop your character and choose your location? True confession: Writing about a character you admire, in a place you love, is a great way to spend your days!
It was easy to choose Nantucket as my location for a cozy series about a candle maker. A small island, thirty miles off the coast of Massachusetts, Nantucket is a gorgeous New England town, steeped in history and home to a strong community while also attracting thousands of tourists each year. Nantucket also has an inspiring legacy of successful women, so creating Stella Wright, a go-getter island native, was a seamless fit. She runs a business, is a master in the art of candle-making, knows everything about the comings-and-goings in town, and understands the heart of her island.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? I enjoy the process of candle-making and the rich landscape of Nantucket, and have used both extensively in developing my books. It is fun to get lost in the details of each. Before I know it, I usually find a small nugget of information that can become a plot point. In Murder Makes Scents, for example, I became fascinated with scent extractions. I read up on extraction work in the Amazon, which I was able to incorporate into story.
What books did you read as a child? My earliest favorites consisted of A Cricket in Times Square, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Franwkeiler, The Pushcart Wars, the Moomin books, Mandy (I still want a fireplace covered in shells),The Westing Game, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Of course, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I started reading Agatha Christie in middle school, so it makes me very happy when a tween-ager buys a Nantucket Candle Maker mystery. I like that people of any age can enjoy the puzzle of a cozy mystery.
What drew you to writing? Writing was a personal challenge I picked up as a young mother, and once I started, I found I could not stop. I love the process of juggling plot, tone, pace, and character to create a story. My best writing days are when the characters take over and I’m merely their scribe.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? W-R-I-T-E! Don’t worry if it is good – yet. The most important thing is to start, keep at it, seek constructive criticism from people you trust, and have fun.
Who is your favorite author? Authors whose characters, narratives and worlds return to me well after I put the book down fall into my favorites list. Many of those authors are famous, but some are from the small writers’ groups I’ve joined.
If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be? I’m enjoying the holidays, and the family fun that goes along with it, so at this very moment in time I’d love to have my four grandparents back home for dinner. There are so many questions I’d like to ask them! You asked for five, so I’ll throw in Frank Sinatra as I think they’d all enjoy a song from Ole Blue Eyes with their supper.
If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career? After writing the Nantucket Candle Maker Mysteries, I think I’d be very happy to open a candle store in Nantucket. Maybe call it the Wick & Flame?
A garage sale in January is a rare sight, but when Sarah Winston hears from a client about one, she is thrilled. In Sell Low, Sweet Harriet by Sherry Harris, when Sarah is approached by the daughter of a deceased couple, Jeanette Blevins, she is stunned with the amount and quality of the items in the house. (Sell Low, Sweet Harriet will be released by Kensington Publishing Corp. on December 31.) The house is filled with exotic pieces from around the world and almost seems overwhelming. When Sarah learns the couple were retired CIA agents, she wonders what secrets she might find in the house. One thing she discovers is someone else wants to get into the house. The intruder isn't really an intruder, and he introduces himself as Troy, Jeanette's brother. Sarah leaves him alone in the study while she does other sorting. Suddenly she hears a crash and finds Troy on the floor injured. He is taken to the hospital, but the next day he disappears. Sarah discovers he was a Fake Troy after she meets the real brother. But the garage sale isn't the only item Sarah has on her plate. The wife of one of the officers on the base has died and it was originally thought that she slipped on the ice and died of hypothermia. After a thorough investigation, the police determined she was struck on the head, leading them to a murder case. Because of her tangential relationship with the base, Scott Pellner, a police officer for the Ellington Police Department, asks her to quietly listen and report back to him anything of importance. Of course listening isn't in Sarah's vocabulary so she begins to ask questions and finds herself in danger. Another clever mystery with loads of garage sale tips. More Sarah Winston adventures to come.
Vintage aprons, linens and other retro fabrics are so popular now, Iris Buckley decides to open a shop with her newly widowed grandmother in Blueberry Cove, Maine. In Hems & Homicides by Elizabeth Penney, while working on the repairs and renovations at her shop, Ruffles & Bows, Iris is shocked by find a skeleton in the wall of her basement. (Hems & Homicides will be published by St. Martin's Publishing on December 31.) More shocking is the possibility that her grandmother knew the person. It seems Star Moonshine was one of her hippie friends from 40 years ago and the skeleton had on a bandana she always worn. Grammie remembers Star went missing around the Fourth of July and everyone thought she had just wandered away. With the shop closed as a murder investigation site, Iris frets about how she will finish the renovations before her opening, if there even is a Grand Opening. While she waits for the police to finish with the site, she decides to look through her grandmother's old scrapbooks and diaries to determine if in fact the skeleton is Star and who might have killed her. The police seem to be focusing on Grammie as their prime suspect and Iris knows she has to prove someone else committed the crime quickly. When the police clear the shop to reopen, Iris dives into completing the repairs, but before she knows it, another person winds up dead in the store. Sure she is never going to be able to open the shop, she throws herself into the investigation along with her best friend Madison Mason. A well-paced, terrific start to a new series.
Editor's note: Attendees at Malice Domestic earlier in the spring received a copy of This Tender Land along with many mystery books. As I am such a mystery snob and pretty much only read mysteries, I wasn't going to bring This Tender Land home with me, but when I read the back cover I was intrigued. I am so happy I did.
My guest reviewer is Denise Kainrath, a reader of many more genres than I am. Thanks to Denise for her lovely review and thanks to William Kent Krueger for a wonderful journey down the Mississippi.
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger will go down as my favorite book of 2019. After a reading rut in late fall, I found myself needing a book that would help warm my heart with its vivid descriptions, lovable characters and page-turning imagery.
This Tender Land was one part Huckleberry Finn, another part Where the
Crawdads Sing, and nothing short of enjoyable. Two orphaned white boys end up at a Native American reformation school in northern Minnesota, where they are mistreated alongside children from native tribes across the country. A traumatic series of events has the two young boys on the run, accompanied by Mose, their mute Sioux friend, and a newly orphaned little girl.
The group sets off down the river in a borrowed canoe, hoping to make it to St. Louis by way of the Mississippi River. The brothers are certain that there is a better life for their newly-minted family, and they meet quite the cast of characters along the way.
As I was reading this, I could hear the crickets chirping, water splashing and feel the heat of the summer sun on my face. The storytelling in this book is one for the ages, and definitely warrants an auto-buy for anything that William Kent Krueger writes in the future.
This book is perfect for any reader on your Christmas list, or even for yourself. I read this snuggled with with a blanket and a caramel apple spice latte from Starbucks and have no complaints. If you enjoyed the isolation and resiliency found in Where the Crawdads Sing, this is a book you are sure to love.
The clambake season is winding down in Busman's Harbor, Maine, and the Snowden family only has a few more events before fall arrives. In Sealed Off by Barbara Ross, Julia Snowden is looking forward to the season ending. Between the constant bickering among her crew and the renovation of her family's home on Morrow Island, she cannot wait for the last remaining clambakes to be completed. (Sealed Off will be released by Kensington Publishing Corp. on December 31.) While she is touring the family home with her mother's cousin 90-year-old Marguerite and her granddaughter Tallulah, the demolition crew discovers a mysterious room, sealed off from the rest of the house. In the room are furnishings and the possessions presumably belonging to the nanny or governess of the family's children. No one is more surprised than architect Wyatt Jayne. When Julia unearths several handwritten journals from among
the effects in the room, a new mystery crops up. Who was the young woman and what became of her? While Julia would love nothing more than to research the history of the hidden room, she finds herself thrust in the middle of a quarrel among her crew. Long-time employee Jason has been flirting relentlessly with Emmy but not to be outdone, another employee Terry seems to be interested in her as well. Of course, this does not sit well with Jason's ex-wife Pru, who also works for the Snowden Clambake. When Jason is found dead under the wood pile a few days later and Terry is missing along with one of the Russian demolition crew members, the local police naturally focus on Terry, an ex-con. Because Terry is the brother of Julia's boyfriend Chris, she feels obligated to clear him. With two mysteries on her mind, Julia plunges into her investigation. The Maine Clambake Mysteries make me hungry for lobster, corn on the cob and all the trimmings. Another intriguing addition to Barbara Ross' series with two tightly woven mysteries.
What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
Murder at the Arts & Crafts Festival, A Cleo Mack Mystery, is my third mystery published by Kensington/ Lyrical Underground.
For a review of Murder at the Arts and Crafts Festival, click here.
What was the most recent book you read? Reading: The Operators (by Michael Hastings), the story of America’s war in Afghanistan. Re-reading: Gaudy Night (by Dorothy L. Sayers). Just finished: Filthy Rich (by James Patterson, the thriller writer) – about Jeffrey Epstein.
How did you develop your character and choose your location? I live in Fairhope, often described as an ordinary little California coastal community that happens to be located in Alabama. Influenced by single-tax Utopians who moved here from Iowa in the 1890s, Fairhope is home to an eclectic population, the main industry is retirees, and the town is quaint…in other words, the perfect setting for a cozy mystery. I wanted my main character to be a competent, mature woman, and it seemed natural to have Cleo Mack leave academics and fall into a job at a community for active retirees.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? I’ll tell you about the research for my new series, in which Miss Bizzy Street leaves her first-grade teaching job and becomes a sleuth. I spent about three months on research, studying a map of Birmingham, slicing it to insert the fictional Mountain View community. I went to a real estate website, printed out photos of a condo in a Birmingham high-rise, and made it Bizzy’s home. Researched lethal doses of prescription drugs, symptoms of overdose, time lines. Researched botanical gardens and drew a map of the fictional Jensen gardens, where Miss Bizzy volunteers. I’m still reading about tiny dog breeds and fainting goats, as I’m nearing the mid-point of Miss Bizzy Turns to Crime.
What books did you read as a child? I was a regular visitor to libraries at school and in town, but when I was about eight my parents splurged on a set of World Book Encyclopedias, and I was in heaven. I read on all topics, memorized the dog breeds, bird species, history, the body transparencies, maps, and loved the “Look-It-Up” twins. That became my motto.
What drew you to writing? Love of the written word, creativity, independence.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? It’s hopeless—no one can tell that naïve girl anything.
Who is your favorite author? That’s difficult. Margaret Millar (wife of Ross Macdonald) perhaps. I liked her mysteries and loved her memoir The Birds and the Beasts Were There. I was inspired by her life as a writer.
If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be? Oh, what a fun question! It kept me awake last night but here’s the list I came up with: Michelle Obama – former First Lady, attorney. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall – British royal, the “other woman,” animal rescue patron, adopts dogs. Neil deGrasse Tyson – astrophysicist and science educator. Rev. Dr. Paul Smith – clergy, civil rights activist. Barbara Mertz (aka Elizabeth Peters) – Egyptologist, mystery novelist.
Doesn’t that sound like a great party? Imagine the conversations!
If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career? Forensic accountant.
It's a rare limo driver in Dublin, Ireland who sounds like an American, but Megan Malone does. In Dead in Dublin by Catie Murphy, Megan loves the relaxed vibe of Dublin although her boss is a bit of a harpy. (Dead in Dublin will be released by Kensington Publishing Corp on December 31.) She has been driving American restaurant critic and food blogger Elizabeth Darr and her husband Simon around Dublin. They stop for dinner at a restaurant owned by one of Megan's friends and seem to enjoy themselves. As soon as they walk outside, Elizabeth collapses in front of the fabled Molly Malone statue and dies. All thoughts spring to food poisoning and Megan's friend Fionnula Canan is terrified for her restaurant's reputation. She begs Megan to discover what really happened to Elizabeth. Not sure she is equipped to investigate, Megan knows her
former military career has made her observant and detail oriented. Handsome detective Paul Bourke doesn't want Megan's help or interference, as he calls it, but she is not deterred. As she learns more about Elizabeth and Simon, she begins to suspect all was not well in the marriage and in their finances. And someone keeps posting new blog posts with Elizabeth very much alive, and the underlying music being the Molly Malone song. Megan thoroughly checks Elizabeth's computer to make sure there aren't any scheduled posts, but none appears. Someone is spoofing the blog. When someone else is brutally murdered, Megan decides to step up her investigation and it leads her to a missing restaurant employee. An excellent mystery with a unique lead character in an unusual role. Very much enjoyed the first in this series.
There's a new spunky female character in town. Her name is Biz Adams and she is a photographer for a newspaper. Nothing special, you think, but wait - this is 1939 and Biz is from a Manhattan society family. Her real name is Elizabeth.
In Murder She Encountered by Peg Cochran. Biz and her reporter partner Ralph Kaminsky are off to cover a robbery at the 1939 World's Fair. When they arrive, they encounter policemen dragging a young man away. As they draw closer, they see the body of a woman lying by the side of one of the show swimming pools. She has been strangled with a nylon stocking. This was not they robbery they thought they would be covering. Biz snaps a photo of the young man and she sees the fear and confusion in his eyes. It seems he was stalking the murdered woman, so when the police found him standing over her with his clothes wet, they arrest him. While Biz and Kaminsky are investigating, they discover the dead woman was a
demonstrator at the DuPont pavilion. DuPont has developed a new material called nylon that lasts longer than silk, costs less and can be made into hosiery. The young woman, Flo Grimm, was one of the many young women desperate for jobs at the World's Fair. The more they dig into Flo's past, the more they uncover something rotten going on at the Fair. Then someone else is murdered and Biz digs deeper finding herself in jeopardy. This series is new to me even though there are two other books in the series, but I loved it. A fast-paced historical mystery with Biz Adams, a woman ahead of her time.
Cleo Mack left academia to become the executive director of Harbor Village, a retirement community in Fairhope, Alabama. The community is filled with energetic seniors with lots of ideas for projects. In Murder at the Arts and Crafts Festival by G.P. Gardner, little did Cleo know she would find murder as well. (Murder at the Arts and Crafts Festival was recently released by Lyrical Underground.) The community is bustling as it prepares for the upcoming Arts and Crafts Festival. It is a huge event for Fairhope and many tourists from out of town look forward to attending. Former teacher and resident of Harbor Village Georgiana Burch is planning a dinner for some of her students who will be attending the festival. But she receives an unexpected surprise when her attention-demanding sister Twinkle Thaw turns up two days early and causes a stir. Before you can blink and eye, Twinkle is dead for poisoning and there are plenty of suspects including everyone at the dinner party, Cleo's kitchen staffand one of her other employees. In her quest to determine if Twinkle died from food poisoning, she learns a great deal about the artist and her penchant for dangerous living.
Cleo also has her own lifestyle dilemma. Her boyfriend Riley Meddors has purchased a home, which she hates, but is having a designer decorate especially for Cleo. He hopes she will love it when she sees it, and move in with him. Right now Cleo is too engrossed in the murder to think about her future. Somehow Twinkle's death ties into the art theft at the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum in Boston and Cleo makes it her mission to find the connection.
I always love books that feature active, energetic seniors. They are more representative of the audience they are reaching.
Sally Goldenbaum's books are terrific, not only for the mysteries, but for the scent of wonderful fall foods you can imagine you can smell through the pages. I wish I were a knitter because I would love to join the Seaside Knitters at Izzy's shop or at Nell's house on Fridays. (A Murderous Tangle was recently released by Kensington Publishing.) In A Murderous Tangle, a young environmental activist has encouraged the preteens of the town to get involved in cleaning up the shorelines. Tess is an enigma and no one knows much about her. When Birdie's granddaughter Gabby sees Tess arguing with a strange man, then watches as she pushes him into the icy bay, she isn't sure who she should tell or if she should. It turns out the man she was arguing with is a bar owner who has no regard for recycling. When he winds up dead the next day after being pushed from the deck of his bar, the Knitter leap in to investigate. Many suspects jump to the forefront including Tess; Gracie, the owner of the adjacent restaurant and sweet Margaret Garozzo. No one wants the murderer to be any of these people, but evidence seems to be piling up against Tess. Gabby tries to convince the adults Tess is not the murderer, but Tess' reticence to explain herself leads many to think she is guilty. Adding to the town's concerns are a series of petty thefts from the stores all up and down the Harbor Road. Sometimes the items are returned, but many are still missing. Nothing is any real value and it is creating tension in town. Another clever mystery with delightful characters and delicious sounding foods. Wish I had a group of friends like the Seaside Knitters.
What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My newest mystery release is Potions Are For Pushovers, the second in my Eleanor Wilde series. (The first is titled Séances Are For Suckers.) As a cozy mystery author, those are the only two books I’ve published so far. As a romance author under a different penname, I’ve published 19 additional novels. For a review of Potions are for Pushover, click here.
What was the most recent book you read? I recently joined a romance book club in my area, so I’m deep in The Bromance Book Club right now for that. I also listen to audiobooks while I do household chores or run errands, and am listening to Elizabeth Peter’s Crocodile on the Sandbank for what is probably the tenth time. It makes such a good re-read!
How did you develop your character and choose your location? Eleanor Wilde is the culmination of everything I love in a female character: she’s smart and sharp and has tendency to run afoul of the law, but in such an endearing way that you can’t fault her for it. The location, a quaint town in England, was chosen because I adore quaint towns in England. If I can’t live in one in real life, then living in one through my characters is the next best thing.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? I tend to do my research as I go rather than before I start writing. I know lots of authors find this distracting, but I like how it breaks up the writing process. I go into the story with a vague idea of what I want to do, and then let the story unfold by itself. The result is that sometimes I don’t see the twist coming until it happens!
What books did you read as
I was a historical
fiction/romance fanatic, although I didn’t know it at the time. The Laura Ingalls
Wilder books, Jane Eyre, Little Women, Catherine Called Birdie…if it had a female center, lots of
historical ambiance, and a love story, I was all in. I also read a lot of Nancy
Drew, Sweet Valley High, and Christopher Pike.
drew you to writing?
Like most avid readers, I
dabbled in short stories and always imagined myself writing a book someday, but
the hardest part was sitting down and actually doing it. One November back in
2008, I was recovering from an emergency surgery that required quite a bit of
bedrest, so I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo to pass the time. I wrote a
book in like 20 days. The book is terrible, and it will never see the light of
day, but it taught me that I could see a project through to the end.
could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Enjoy the process! Celebrate
every small success! You are amazing!
I love my job, of course, and
seeing my books in a bookstore never gets old, but it can be difficult to
remember why I started doing all this in the first place. My daughter, who is
14, just finished her first NaNo project, and I’ve done my best to tell her all
the things I wish I could tell my younger self. Her enthusiasm and joy has been
really good for us both.
Who is your favorite author?
I adore Georgette Heyer – both her
mysteries and her romances, which is why I also write in both genres. She is
one of the best authors when it comes to creating lively, well-rounded,
If you could invite five people –
living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
I’m an introvert to the umpteenth degree,
so the idea of having a dinner party with five people I admire fills me with
dread. I’d invite someone like Oscar Wilde so he could do most of the talking,
and then fill the rest of the table with quiet, kind souls who could be anxious
in the background with me.
If you could not be an author, what
would like to do as a career?
This is such a hard question! I can’t think
of anything I’d like to do even half as much, so it would have to be a complete
departure. Something like a park ranger or a forensic pathologist.
A trip to Chicago draws Sam and Nana Jo into a murder that occurs on their bus. In Bookmarked for Murder by V.M. Burns, the seniors from Shady Acres Retirement Village have planned a special trip between Christmas and New Year's Eve. After a busy day in Chicago, all the passengers are looking forward to being back at Shady Acres. (Bookmarked for Murder was published by Kensington Publishers on November 26.) When they discover a substitute bus driver, they are worried about their return trip, especially when the driver refuses to stop for a rest break. When he finally stops, nearly everyone scrambles off the bus except Irma's new boyfriend Max Franck. After everyone returns, Irma discovers Max dead in his seat. Hardly anyone knew Max, but it's obvious someone on board wanted him dead. It's up to Sam, Nana Jo and the rest of the "girls" to solve that case. As much as she hates to get involved in another murder,
Sam decides it's safer to investigate rather than let her grandmother and her friends meddle.Max was a Pulitzer Prize investigate journalist, and had written a book he said would blow the lid off the murder of Robert Kennedy. Sam wonders if someone from his research wanted him dead, but as she learns more about Max she discovers he was not the best father or grandfather. And that's another avenue to investigate. Sam sees Max arguing with a woman in the bookstore in Chicago and then again on the bus. She decides to discover the identity of the woman and learns the woman was Max's estranged daughter. There is a health reason behind the estrangement. While trying to solve the case, Sam continues to work on her Victorian era novel. She believes her writing helps her clarify her thinking about the current case. I very much enjoy the dual plot lines. Bookmarked for Murder has a cast of quirky characters and they are up to their usual antics while solving the case. A delightful mystery.
An author once told me cats on the cover of a book help increase sales. Who can argue with that - check out this adorable cat on the cover of Gone, Kitty, Gone by Eileen Watkins. Cassie McGlone has expanded her Comfy Cat business to include a mobile grooming service. (Gone, Kitty, Gone will be released by Kensington Publishing on December 31). Her first opportunity to showcase her business arises when she participates in the New Jersey Cat Expo. Along with her veterinarian boyfriend Mark, she will be offering grooming demos and he will be teaching owners about cat care and health. Pop star and Jersey girl Jaki Natal has agreed to be the guest of honor and she is bringing her celebrity pet cat Gordie, a Scottish fold. Gordie has become a social media darling because of all the pictures Jaki posts. When Gordie is kidnapped and a security guard is found dead, Jaki goes into meltdown and it seems only Cassie can help. Cassie meets a quartet of "Jaki" groupies and they immediately make her suspicious of them. Also at the Expo is Cassie's highly-allergic-to-cats mother, her new boyfriend and his a Sphynx cat named Looli. Looli will be competing a cat contest. With the chaos surrounding the disappearance of Gordie, Cassie is worried about her mother as well as trying to fulfill her obligations to the Expo. When Jaki begs her to find Gordie, Cassie feels she must find the cat before something happens to him. But Cassie finds herself in a deadly game of cat and mouse with someone who has already killed to gain what he wants. Can she find Gordie and stay alive herself? Cat lovers of the world will delight in this mystery.
What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published? Hems and Homicide is my newest book—and the first in the Apron Shop Series. I’ve
written over two dozen mysteries and women’s fiction novels.
What was the most recent book you read? An Inquiry into Love and Death, by Simone St. James, a ghost story, mystery, and romance all in one. I loved it, as I do all of this author’s books.
How did you develop your character and choose your location? I wanted to set a series in Maine, where I spent most of my childhood. It makes a great setting with its beautiful coastal scenery, sweet small towns, and quirky way of life. Next, I decided on my premise, an apron shop. Aprons are enjoying a renaissance of late and they’re also an iconic part of American history. Featuring vintage aprons from different eras in my series gives me a lot of plot ideas to work with.
As for my main character, she came to me while brainstorming. Iris is a former fabric designer and she loves vintage aprons and linens. She often wears aprons over the 1950s dresses she sews for herself. These outfits suit her curvy figure and mid-century modern sensibility. Iris is a little nerdy, kind, bright, and inquisitive.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? Since Hems and Homicide is the first in a series, I spent some time developing the cast of characters and the setting. Blueberry Cove is a fictional town so I needed to map out the whole place. Iris has a grandmother, a cat, and lots of friends. All of them needed names, occupations, and relationships of their own. Once I start writing, I often pause to do more research as questions and the need for more information arise.
What books did you read as a child? The short answer is everything. I’m from a family of voracious readers. I started reading Nancy Drew books at age seven, I remember, because we had just moved to Maine and I checked one out at the library. The libraries I went to had a wonderful collection of classic books, so I read every color of fairy tale book, all the Raggedy Anne stories, the original Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins books, and so forth. I also enjoyed other mystery series like Trixie Belden and The Three Investigators.
What drew you to writing? Because of my love of books, it was always a desire. But, busy with a career and raising a family, I was well into adulthood before I started writing. Then I found I couldn’t stop. About ten years ago, I left the banking and business development world and began to write full-time.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? Keep going, you will get there! For most new writers, there’s a time when you wonder if your writing is any good, if you’re ever going to get an agent, get published, etc. It can be a long haul.
Who is your favorite author? I have many favorites, so like a parent with a big family, I don’t want to pick just one. My reading tastes are eclectic. I’ve read the classics plus a lot of twentieth century authors my parents had on their shelves. For example, my father had a lot of 1950s science fiction and I read it all. I enjoy mysteries both cozy and dark, suspense, women’s fiction, and literary fiction.
If you could not be an author, what would you like to do as a career? I’d be a flower farmer. I dabble in that now and I love it.
November in Upstate New York is usually a beautiful time of the year, but this November Tess Esposito is mourning the death of her husband in a car accident. In Penne Dreadful by Catherine Bruns, Tessa learns from her police detective cousin Gino that her husband's death was no accident. Stunned by the news by the news that someone murdered her husband, Tessa is reeling from the shock. She's sure Dylan had no enemies and struggles to believe her cousin. Gino encourages her to find a job cooking so she can cope with the loss, and he points her to one of Dylan's favorite restaurants - Slice. Slice is also the last place Dylan was seen before he died. It's a tacky, run-down neighborhood place and Tessa is surprised Dylan loved it so much. The owner Anthony greets her with open arms, but she is met with animosity and open hostility by Anthony's nephew Vince. While she quietly goes making pasta sauce and pizzas at the restaurant, a couple of the delivery teens make snide comments about Dylan, implying she didn't know her husband they way they knew him. This leaves her more bewildered and determined to learn the truth about his death. She decides its time to pick up her personal belongings from the company for which he worked. The receptionist offers condolences but implies that Dylan did not leave the company on his own accord. She wonders what else her husband was hiding from her. Her search for the truth leads her to nefarious doings both at Slice and the company where Dylan worked. And she learns some hard truths about her husband. A delicious mystery with the hunger-inducing scent of Italian pasta sauce.
Police officer Megan Luz and her K-9 partner Brigit love to wander the Fort Worth zoo and they set out for a fun field trip. In Paw of the Jungle by Diane Kelly, this casual trip turns into disaster. A pair of rare hyacinth macaws named Fabiana and Fernando goes missing. (Paws of the Jungle will be released om November 26 by St. Martin's Press.) Worth thousands of dollars, Megan cannot figure out how the birds were stolen. The zoo is secure and it seems almost impossible for the birds to have flown away on their own. In Megan's mind, this looks like an inside job. Although her other policing duties take her to different locations, Megan's mind keeps going back to the zoo theft. She spends time sending truant teens back to high school, looking for a shoplifter and issuing speeding tickets. With a host of other duties occupying her time, she finds herself investigating a theft of jewelry from a home that might not be a theft, but her thoughts still drifts back to the zoo theft. Because the zoo is part of her beat, she heads there with Brigit for a little exercise. As she strolls through the zoo, she realizes how many animals are sought after for their "medicinal" properties. Such a shame, she thinks. (Interesting fact I learned from this book: dogs are not color blind. Their color range includes yellows and blues and filters out background colors like greens and browns. This enables them to detect movement even in the dark.) When another bigger, bolder theft occurs, Megan and Brigit know they need to find the stolen animal before it is sold on the Black Market. Megan and Brigit are delightful together and they make a extraordinarily caring crime fighting unit. A devious plot with a satisfying conclusion.
Would-be town witch Eleanor Wilde has been happily mixing up her potions, tantalizing elixirs and tonics for the gullible residents of her small English town. In Potions are for Pushovers by Tamara Berry, things get serious when the town most hated woman is poisoned. (Potions are for Pushovers will be released by Kensington Publishers on November 26.) Suddenly Eleanor's innocuous potions are under suspicion. Sarah Blackthorne was not well-liked by the villagers, but when she dies suddenly, all eyes focus on the newcomer who claims to be a witch. Sarah's two totally different nephews show up after her death. Richard King is a TV star, complete with perfectly straight, shiny white teeth. On the other hand his brother Lewis is hairy, sweats excessively and is nervous and twitchy all the time. Plus he has been know to have his aunt invest in his hairbrain scheme which inevitably lose money. Both seem to be interested in what they will inherit rather than who killed their aunt. Inspector Peter Piper seems to want to focus on Eleanor has the chief suspect, but Ellie is determined to clear herself. The love of her life, millionaire and favorite son Nicholas Hartford III would love to support Ellie emotionally and financially, but she is adamant that she can take care of herself. With her two witches-in-training, Rachel and Lenora, begin researching werewolves and and planning to confront the werewolf on the coming full moon. But Ellie discovers a small notebook with mythical symbols and puzzles over what it means. When she finally figures out the secret, she finds herself in jeopardy from the killer. A very entertaining and funny second book in the series. I look forward to more adventures with Ellie and friends.