Thursday, February 28, 2019

Murder Once Removed

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Lucy Lancaster is a genealogist, but she bills herself as an ancestry detective. In the age of DNA testing, everyone wants to know who their ancestors are and she is busier than ever. In Murder Once Removed by S.C. Perkins, Austin, Texas billionaire Gus Halloran has hired Lucy to discover who murdered his great-great-grandfather Seth in 1849. (Murder Once Removed will be published on March 19 by Minotaur Books.)

She has also assembled a family tree for Gus that stretches back into the 1840s. Fortunately Texas kept good records. When Seth Halloran died in 1849, his widow pleaded with the authorities to prove it was murder, but they brushed her off as an hysterical widow. While researching, Lucy finds a photographer named Jeb Inscore who witnessed the crime and photographed the body.

Now with the aid of the granddaughter of the photographer, Lucy tracks down actual photos of the scene. Not really photos but daguerrotypes - photos printed on silver-coated copperplates and essentially very fragile and sensitive to light.

Lucy also finds a diary left by Jeb Inscore with an entry describing seeing two men standing over the
body. After they left, he took the photo of the body, but suddenly the killers returned with a horse and trod over Seth's body. They also threatened Jeb. In his journal Jeb wrote the initials of the murderer were C.A. and mentioned that C.A. was a member of the Texas Legislature. This leads to Lucy to two possible suspects - Caleb Applewhite or Cantwell Ayers.

With this new information, Lucy is free to fly. Unfortunately Gus is an impatient man and has had a long-running feud with Senator Daniel Applewhite, who is running against Gus' son for the Senate seat.

An impromptu press conference gets Lucy into trouble as Gus accuses the Applewhite family of killing his great-great grandfather and exposing the existence of the nearly priceless daguerrotypes which in turn leads to a murder.

This is the first in an engaging and timely series featuring spunky Lucy Lancaster and hunky FBI Agent Ben Turner.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Interview with Libby Klein

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
Restaurant Weeks Are Murder is the third story in the Poppy McAllister series. There will be at least
five titles at this point. So many fun things are planned. Fingers crossed for more. (For a review of Restaurant Weeks Are Murder click here.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
I went with a lot of what I know, and then embellished it. I grew up in Cape May, NJ so I know the location very well. There is a wealth of beauty in the area, and at the same time, great opportunity to have a constant influx of tourists bringing a seedy underbelly of crime into Poppy’s home town. Poppy is a very honest character. Her flaws and mistakes are as much a part of her as her red hair and freckles. I think what makes her so easy to identify with is that she reveals the things we are all thinking and feeling.

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening?
My day always starts with coffee. I start thinking about it when I go to bed at night. I work a day job so my writing schedule has to revolve around payroll and taxes and boring things like that. I find I work the best in the afternoon, and if I can get a few hours in a row I tend to write a chapter a day.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
Poppy has some of my qualities, some of the qualities I wish I had, and some things are just hers
alone. She is much more emotional than I am. And of course, her life has taken a different path than mine did as my very alive husband will tell you. I think Poppy is someone I’d love to be friends with.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
Carol Burnett would be a fabulous Aunt Ginny. Poppy is a plus sized heroine and needs to be played by a plus sized actress. If Sara Rue were heavier she’d be perfect as Poppy.

Who is your favorite author?
I have too many to list. I love Ann B. Ross and Lilian Jackson Braun. For traditional mystery I really enjoy Kathy Valenti. For fantasy I love Jasper Fforde. And two of my favorite series were written for children by Lemony Snicket and Eoin Coifer.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Agatha Christie, Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Oscar Wilde, and Edgar Allen Poe. I think we’d all be terrified of Edgar, and Oscar would say something horrendously inappropriate and offend Carol. Tim would act up the entire time and Agatha and I would just sit and watch and take notes.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
I wanted to be a pastry chef. Now I’d like a job that sends me around the world and pays me to taste chocolate and coffee. I know I’d be good at it because I’ve been training for it my whole life.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

City of Secrets

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A delectable mystery with just the right amount of revenge. In City of Secrets by Victoria Thompson, Elizabeth Miles has returned from a stint in jail for her part where she met socialite Mrs. Bates. Now Mrs. Bates is trying to teach Elizabeth to navigate the world of New York society.

Elizabeth has spent her early days learning from the Old Man (her father) to be a grifter and a con artist. When she meets Gideon Bates, though, she thinks she might enjoy the society life and adapt to Mrs Bates' lessons.

At church on Sunday, Elizabeth is approached by Priscilla Knight, a young woman newly widowed for the second time in a short period. After her first husband DeForrest Jenks died, it was rumored he had left her penniless. She was so lost in grief and before she knew it, her pastor and his wife coerced her into marrying Endicott Knight.

When he dies, it appears that Endicott did indeed leave her penniless and with a mortgaged house. She asks Elizabeth to help her.

With the assistance of her father and her brother, Elizabeth discovers how the money taken and who has it. Getting it back make City of Secrets quite entertaining.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Night Olivia Fell

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A mother’s worst nightmare - a phone call in the middle of the night. In The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald Abi Knight learns her daughter Olivia fell off a bridge and is brain dead. Worse yet she is pregnant.

As Abi rushes to the hospital she wonders what else she doesn't know about daughter. Although there are bruises on her wrist, the police believe Olivia fell accidentally and they don't appear to investigate too thoroughly. Also missing is a charm bracelet Olivia always wore. This causes Abi to believe someone pushes Olivia, but she cannot get the police to budge. Abi’s life turns upside as she tries to figure out what happened to her daughter and who the baby’s father is.

While Olivia was growing up, Abi had secrets of her own including who her daughter's father was. When Olivia asked, Abi told her he had died in a car accident. In reality he was someone who paid her to have an abortion and threatened her. She fled Seattle and never made contact with him again. 

Through a total coincidence while on a college visit to the University of Washington in Seattle, Olivia catches a glimpse of a young woman around her own age who looks almost exactly like her. Even her friends comment on the resemblance. When Olivia tracks her down on Facebook she makes plans to meet her and soon discovers Kendall's father is state senator Gavin Montgomery. Their uncanny resemblance leads Olivia in one direction - to her father. 

The story is told through flashbacks so we learn more about the devastating lies and hidden secrets that impacted their lives as Abi tries to unravel the truth surrounding her daughter's fall. 

 An emotionally heartbreaking story, but with some hope for the future.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Charity's Burden

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Frightening parallels to today's fight for women's reproductive rights. Quaker midwife Rose Carroll tries to help women plan their children and space them out a little. In Charity's Burden by Edith Maxwell one of Charity's clients is in distress in what seems like an early miscarriage. Rose rushes to Charity Skells side but soon realizes she is in serious condition. (Charity's Burden will be release on April 8 by Midnight Ink and is available for pre-order.)

When the autopsy reveals Charity died from a perforated uterus that could have been as a result of a botched mechanical abortion or intentional murder, Rose is determined to discover the truth.

There are plenty of suspects including Charity's husband Ransom who has been known to keep company with a woman at his job. There are also two practitioners of herbal remedies for women who have less than stellar backgrounds. And one of Charity's cousins seems to be up to no good.

On the home front Rose's fiance David cannot seem to convince his mother to give her blessing for
their marriage. This has taken a toll on Rose, especially now as her young niece Faith is about to marry Zeb. She is thrilled for her niece, but quietly saddened because of her situation. That doesn't stop Rose from continuing her investigation.

When on a dark night, her carriage is forced off the road and she has to tramp back home in the dark, Rose begins to wonder whether she is on the right track in her investigation. Along with police detective Kevin Donovan, they try to unravel Charity's mysterious death.

Rose and the real women who performed midwife duties during this era were heroic women in a difficult time. Unfortunately the burden of birth control fell on women who were ill-equipped to deal with it. Another stellar book from Edith Maxwell.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Bones Behind the Wheel

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What would it be like for some people in the family to see ghosts and others to not be able to see them? This is what life is like in Alison Kirby's New Jersey seashore guest house. I'll bet that's a fun household in which to live. By the way did you know the National Language of New Jersey is Sarcasm? Now you do.

In Bones Behind the Wheel by E.J. Copperman, it's the offseason on the Jersey shore. Alison discovers a crew moving sand to prevent shoreline erosion in her back yard. Suddenly they hit something metal and a 1977 Lincoln Continental sedan complete with a skeleton behind the wheel is unearthed.

Living with ghosts, especially one who was a private investigator, prepares Alison for her calm demeanor toward the discovery. When the sedan disappears that night then reappears in the hole again the next night, Alison's temper starts to flare.

Using the ghosternet, Paul and Maxie, two of the ghosts, try to figure out who the victim was. Declining to be involved in this investigation, Alison soon realizes her new husband Josh has caught the detecting fever, even though
he cannot hear or see the ghosts.

What's a girl to do when everyone around her is involved in the case. When she finds a giant emerald and some bullets in her ceiling and a gun in a hole under her refrigerator, she's involved reluctantly.

Laugh out loud funny antics with the ghosts and the police detective who refuses to enter the house because of the ghosts.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Interview with Kathleen Ernst

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My newest book is The Lacemaker's Secret: A Chloe Ellefson Mystery (Midnight Ink, 2018). It's the 9th book in the series, and my 37th published book! It took me a long time to hone my craft well enough to break in, so I find that number a bit astounding.

Why is your book set in 1983? How did you develop your character and choose your location?
I am passionate about historic places and objects, and the stories they can tell. I worked as a curator of interpretation and collections at a large historic site in Wisconsin in the 1980s and 1990s, and after I moved on, discovered that I missed the museum world. Chloe Ellefson is a fictional character, but she works at the same historic site where I once did. She also travels to other museums and historic sites as the series progresses. One of my primary goals for the series was to celebrate special historic places and stories.

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I chose to set the series in the 1980s for several reasons. First, I'm writing from memory. My own museum career began in 1982, so that's what I know. The sites world and curatorial work is very different today.

Second, since I write about real places, I like to put some distance between my fictional murder and mayhem and readers' modern experiences at any of the features historic sites.

Third, the 1980s setting means Chloe has to rely on her own skills and training to find answers and get out of trouble. She can't whip out her cell phone and call for help or search for information!

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening?
I have been a full-time writer for over a decade. That means I spend more time on the writing business than I do actually writing the books. Mornings and evenings are usually spent answering correspondence, preparing programs, writing blog posts, etc. Also, I often travel to make presentations at libraries or conduct research for upcoming books. I try to get some solid writing time in every afternoon. I'm not rigid about word count, but in general aim to produce between 1,000 and 2,000 words a day. It goes more slowly at the beginning of the process.

I also take week-long writing retreats several times a year, holing up in some quiet location with my laptop. Those weeks are tremendously productive, and make it possible for me to meet deadlines.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
Superficially, Chloe and I have a lot in common. She has a job I used to have, she rented the farmhouse I once rented, she went to college where I did, etc. However, Chloe is definitely a fictional character, created to serve the stories.

None of my characters were developed to represent any single real person. Ralph Petty, Chloe's boss, is an amalgamation of every bad boss I've ever had--plus some of my friends' bad bosses too. Spending time with police officers helped me create Roelke McKenna, local cop and Chloe's love interest. I knew very little about police work before starting the series, and so am very grateful to the officers who have let me shadow them.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
That's a delightful question! I think, though, that I would prefer unknown actors to play Chloe and Roelke. Readers have their own image of these characters, and it might be jarring to have a famous star in the roles. (I know, I should be so lucky!)

Who is your favorite author?
Oh dear, so many to choose from. I don't think I can pick one mystery author. Favorites outside the genre include Barbara Kingsolver and poets Ted Kooser and Mary Oliver.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Abigail Adams, Harriet Tubman, Olympia Brown, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
My undergraduate degree was in environmental education, and I'd be delighted to work again for a park or historic site. But I wouldn't stop writing!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Trouble on the Books

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Shelby Cox returns to her hometown of Alexandria Bay in the beautiful Thousand Islands area of New York after living in Boston for most of her life. In Trouble on the Books by Essie Long, Shelby finds herself as a part owner of Bayside Books with her aunt Edie. One of the book stores is located in a Castle on Blye Island.

Gearing up for the tourist season and getting to know the Castle book store, Shelby encounters town pain in the behind Loreena Swan, also curator of exhibits at the Blye Castle. Not ready to be bossed around by someone with no experience in book stores, Shelby and Loreena do not hit it off the first time they meet.

Days later when Shelby founds Loreena's body in the nearby grotto, she is worried about the island caretaker Matthew Kessler as he has had varied negative encounters with Loreena. Shelby gets it into her head that Loreena's death was related to smuggling especially as she encounters Coast Guard investigator Zack Griffin.

With all this going on Shelby is having a hard time getting a straight answer from her aunt about her mother's death. Every time she brings it up, Edie changes
the subject. Before her father died, she was not able to get a straight answer out of him either and this is frustrating Shelby.

When the sheriff considers Matthew as a person of interest in the murder, Shelby buckles down and searches for clues to clear him, but naturally puts herself in danger.

The first in a new series by Essie Lang AKA Linda Wiken. I would love to visit the Thousand Islands and a castle bookstore sounds fantastic.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Hollywood Ending

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I know, I know, Kellye Garrett won the Agatha for Best First Novel last year at Malice Domestic and now her third book is nearly ready for publication. I've finally gotten around to reading one of her books and I am happy I did.

Hollywood Ending continues the pursuit of quirky former actress Dayna Anderson to become a private detective. First of all she has to convince her boss Aubrey Adams-Parker to get his license. Once a spokesperson for Chubby's Chicken, she now spends her time calling the LAPD Tip Line.

When Hollywood publicist Lyla Davis is shot at an ATM after the Silver Sphere Cocktail party, Dayna or Day as she likes to be called, is sure she can solve the mystery. With the assistance of her computer nerd friend Emme to search for background information, Day is off and running.

Because her boyfriend, actor Omari Grant was in the ATM before Lyla was shot, Day feels he might have seen something. With only the fuzzy photo from the ATM  camera to go on, Day has her pal Emme try to get more detail from the photo. When they finally see a glimpse of a recognizable tattoo, they try to track down the alleged killer.

The plot becomes more complicated when the tattooed man kills himself. But that doesn't satisfy Day so she keeps pursuing the case. What she finds is back-stabbing Hollywood gossip, treacherous publicists and duplicitous actors.

A funny, insider's look at Hollywood and the awards industry.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Something Read, Something Dead

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Lucy Richardson's cousin Josie is finally getting married in what she hopes will be a small, simple wedding. In Something Read, Something Dead by Eva Gates that is not to be. With the wedding only one month away, Lucy keeps prodding Josie to purchase her dress. (Something Read, Something Dead will be released on March 13 by Crooked Lane) 

Some of the details have been arranged including a reception at Jake's restaurant, an Outer Banks favorite. When Josie's demanding grandmother arrives from New Orleans with her entourage in tow, she sets Josie's already frayed nerves on fire. It's her plan to help her granddaughter Mirabelle, a would-be wedding planning, plan Josie's wedding in a more extravagant manner, something Josie is dead set against.

Mirabelle aims high. She wants the wedding to be on the cover of a regional magazine, but Josie wants no part of it. She badgers Josie at her shop and it evolves into a shouting match with Josie threatening to "kill her." Worse yet, Mirabelle declares she is gluten-free and requires special treats for the shower.

At the bridal shower in the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library, Lucy is trying to keep everyone from each other's throats and temper the extravagant plans so they are more in line with Josie and Jake's original plans. When Mirabelle falls ill at the shower and dies the next day, the state police are called in to investigate and that makes everyone more nervous.

Was someone targeting Mirabelle or was Josie the main target? Lucy tries to keep the tabloid journalists at bay while she figures out how the crime was committed and how to keep the wedding on track.

Love the lighthouse library and wish it were a real place.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Puppy who Knew Too Much

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Leaving Indiana after the murder of her husband, Lilly Echosby moves to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to live near her long-time friend Dixie Jefferson. In The Puppy Who Knew Too Much by V.M. Burns, Lilly hopes her troubles are behind her and her only problem will be training her new poodle Aggie.

When a strange woman approaches Lilly and Dixie about renting her son's house, Lilly jumps in. Even though she has shown no credit history or any background check, Jo Ellen Hansen offers Lilly a one-year lease. Lilly quickly moves in and prepares to join the community. Her first encounter leads her into a confrontation with one of her neighbors.

Next day while walking her dog, Aggie begins sniffing around a tree but doesn't want to be drawn away. As Lilly gets closer, she realizes Aggie has unearthed a shoe attached to a dead man. When the body is identified as Jo Ellen Hansen's son Robert, Lilly begins to worry about her ability to stay in the house.

Lilly's daughter Stephanie and her police officer boyfriend Joe plan to stay with Lilly while she gets settled in. Lucky for her because the next day someone breaks in and ransacks the house. Joe calls in a favor from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and they send Dennis Olson to join the case.

Not one to sit idly by and let someone else investigate, Lilly, Dixie and Stephanie decide to figure out who killed Robert Hanson and what they wanted from Lilly's house. Meanwhile Lilly has been hired by the Chattanooga Museum of Art to untangle the financial mess left by the scion of wealthy donors The Hopewells. Freemont Hopewell takes an instant shine to Lilly and begins deluging her with flowers. She is flattered at first, but wonders what his game is.

I have read other books by V.M. Burns and find them entertaining. This book is the second in the Dog Club Mysteries and I found the characters to be realistic and likable. Plus I learned some dog training tips even though I do not have a dog.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Interview with Michael Robertson

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?

The most recent is A Baker Street Wedding (Dec. 2018). There are six books total in the Baker Street Letters series. Although I do my best to make each stand alone, when people ask where to start, I generally suggest The Brothers of Baker Street, because it includes all the back story that is referenced in the later books, and it introduces a Moriarty plot line that I don't want people to miss. But another (and quicker, if you are looking for a short read) entry to the series is my short story, The Barrister's Clerk (available as an online single at Amazon, and in printed form in the Malice Domestic #13 anthology, "Mystery Most Geographical".

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
The location--the Marylebone district in London, and more specifically Baker Street, and even more specifically the 200 block of Baker Street--chose itself. The series unavoidably begins in an office building that occupies the space where 221B would have been when the Sherlock Holmes Stories were written--and where, until just a few years ago, the Royal Mail did in fact deliver letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes.

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening?
Back in the day, I would write late at night, after work. But staying up until 2:00 AM became hard to maintain, so for the past ten years or so--which is to say, for the whole length of the Baker Street Letters series--I've done my writing in the early morning and then again in the early afternoon. When I was still working full-time for IBM (up until about five years ago), I did most of my writing in coffee shops, one on the way to work, and another on lunch break. I no longer have to follow that schedule, but it has become habit, so it is what I still do.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
The female lead in the series (the actress Laura Rankin) is a composite of several women I've known over the years. The two male leads--brothers Reggie and Nigel Heath, with their sibling rivalries--I suppose are drawn very loosely from myself and my own three siblings.

An additional male lead, introduced in The Baker Street Jurors and taking a larger role in A Baker Street Wedding, is a fellow named Sigerson, who plays the violin for tips in the London underground. I think the source of inspiration for him will be pretty much self-evident.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
My first agent at WME said she imagined Colin Firth in the lead role (as barrister Reggie Heath). The first book was optioned for a series by Warner Brothers Television back in 2009, and a pilot was written, but not produced. I've always seen it as a film franchise rather than TV series, and I agree with the choice of Colin Firth if someone comes along to produce the movie.

Who is your favorite author?
Mark Twain generally; Dashiell Hammett for mystery novels; and a tie between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir John Mortimer for mystery short stories.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Not to be evasive, but I actually don't do dinner parties. I'd have to consult with a friend of mine and see who she suggests.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
In real life, I suppose I would have finished law school and gone on from there. But in my fantasy life, I would like to be a wildlife photographer. I like the hiking and exploring, and I'm capable of sitting still and staring at something for long periods of time to get the effect that I want. But I just never could understand shutter speeds and exposures.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Nearly Nero

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Nearly Nero by Loren D. Estleman tells the story of  "The Adventures of Claudius Lyon, the Man Who Would Be Wolfe."

Nero Wolfe has always been a favorite of mine and Nearly Nero had me laughing out loud. Claudius Lyon, a rotund wannabe fancies himself Brooklyn's version of Nero Wolfe. His go-to guy is Arnie Woodbine, and if you say it fast enough it sounds like Archie Goodwin. His chef produces only kosher foods, some of which are nonrecognizable, and practically inedible.

Best of all, while Wolfe raises difficult to grow orchids, Lyon raises tomatoes - not so difficult to grow! Oh yes and Lyon doesn't have a private detective's license, so he cannot accept a fee for his services or Captain Stoddard of the Brooklyn police will try to arrest him. No problem, Claudius is independently wealthy from an invention created by his father.

In this collection of short stories, even if you are diehard fan of
Nero Wolf, you will laugh at the parallels and contrasts. I have always loved the Nero Wolfe books, but Nearly Nero is such a fun parody. Although it helps if you have read some of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books, Nearly Nero is fun even to a novice.

The mysteries are mostly brainteasers (no murders) and the most trouble Claudius and Arnie get into is keeping Stoddard from arresting them for practicing without a license.

If you need a laugh in these gloomy, snowy winter days, Nearly Nero is the book for you.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Harvest of Secrets

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Lucie Montgomery finds herself between two murders: one that took place 150 years ago and what that happened recently. In Harvest of Secrets by Ellen Crosby both murders interfere with the grape harvest.

Two of Lucie's vineyard employees are digging up a tree when they find a skull just outside the family cemetery. A forensic anthropologist is hired to determine the age of the skull and possibly find the rest of the skeleton. Lucie is certain this is someone to whom she is related, so she is all in on the search.

Newly arrived winemaker Jean-Claude de Marignac is the son of a wealthy winemaker in France and Lucie's family has been friends with his family for decades. But not everyone is charmed by Jean-Claude and right away he ruffles some feathers.

While the anthropologist continues her search, Lucie frets about an approaching hurricane and how it will impact their harvest. She also receives a disconcerting email from someone who found her their her recent DNA test. He claims to be her half brother and needless to say Lucie is shocked and mystified.

The two murders couldn't be farther apart in their cause. Lucie finds the name of a female relative in the family Bible with only a birth date, no other information. When the rest of the skeleton is found wrapped in an unusual quilt, Lucie decides to check with local historical societies to identify it. What she discovers is her relative was murdered by a blow to the head because she wanted to marry someone her family disapproved of.

When Jean Claude is found dead, his murder is the results of his evil deeds, but one of Lucie's vineyard workers is suspected.

As the hurricane threatens, Lucie must solve the two murders, harvest grapes and decide whether she wants include her half brother into the family.

Two excellent mysteries in one. I loved the forensic anthropologist portion. It is amazing what can be discovered with just a skeleton.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Daughter of Molokai

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This is a novel of heartbreak, joy, grief, love and forgiveness that should be read by everyone in these turbulent times. Daughter of Moloka'i is the sequel to Moloka'i by Alan Brennert. You do not have to have read the first one to understand the story line.(Daughter of Moloka'i will be released on February 19 by St. Martin's Press.)

Ruth Utagawa was one day old she was taken from her leper parents and separated from them for one year. After the year when she showed no signs of the disease, she was taken by a nun Kapi'iolani House for Girls on Oahu to be raised by other nuns. Adoptions were hard to come by because many people knew the girls were children of lepers from Moloka'i. In Ruth's case, it was doubly difficult because she was half Japanese and half Hawaiian.

As Ruth grew she wondered why her mother gave her up, but no one explained the circumstances of her separation. When she was five a lovely Japanese couple living in Hawaii with three American born sons adopted her despite the circumstances of her birth. Taizo and Etsuko Watanabe are delighted to have a daughter and they raise her to follow Japanese customs with as much love as they give their sons.

When Taizo's brother encourages the family to move to California and farm with him, they reluctantly leave Hawaii. Facing much anti-Japanese sentiment in California, their farm is successful and they are able to make a decent living for the two families, always with the underlying resentment of the white Californians.

When the stock market crashed in 1929, times are difficult for everyone and the brothers decide to sell 90% of their farm to the local anti-Japanese sheriff. They finally agree to sell the entire farm, but lease back land to farm for their own families.

After Ruth graduates from high school, she finds her job prospects are limited, but with a stroke of luck she meets Frank Harada and marries him shortly thereafter. He opens a diner in Florin and the business succeeds, then World War II ruins their lives.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States government rounded up all Japanese - American citizens and all others of Japanese descent and marched them off the internment camps. The families were only able to take a small number of possessions and their lands and property were sold out from under them.

For years Ruth and her family were prisoners in the internment camps and treated like they were inferior. Their accommodations at the first camp were former horse stables. There was barbed wire and armed guards surrounding the isolated camps.

The treatment of Japanese-American by the U.S. government is a blot on our history. No one of German or Italian descent (also enemies in WWII) were interned, only the Japanese. Although Daughter of Moloka'i comes full circle with Ruth meeting her birth mother, the mortifying treatment of the Japanese in American can never be erased and this kind of discrimination must never be allowed to happen again.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Nantucket Countefeit

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"Life imitates art far more than art imitates life," said Oscar Wilde. In Nantucket Counterfeit by Steven Axelrod, Police Chief Henry Kennis thinks the current play performed by the Nantucket Theater Lab seems to be imitating life. The playwright Blair Hollister has written a show entitled Who Dun It. When much hated artistic director Horst Refn is found stuffed in a freezer, it's up to Kennis to sort through the many suspects to determine who dun it.

And there are plenty of suspects. Nantucket's wealthy residents are reluctant to speak about anything personal and feel they are above the law, so Kennis struggles with interviewing them. When he does speak with them, he is sure many of them are lying some of the time.

Through his team's research, they discover Refn was blackmailing many people on the island and making a good living from it. But more importantly Horst Refn, was really not Horst Refn, but Barry Pomeroy. Prior to becoming Refn, Pomeroy participated in several scams to defraud many people of money as well as blackmailing others.

In addition counterfeit bills were found at the scene of the crime and those lead Kennis in several directions. As he begins to draw closer to arresting his suspect, several other things fall into place almost leading to Kennis arrest the wrong person and causing the death of another.

This is the fifth book in the series, but it can be read without having read the others in the series. Henry Kennis is a witty character who writes poetry to the chagrin of his ex-wife. A thoroughly enjoyable mystery.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Interview with Debra H. Goldstein

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My new book is One Taste Too Many. It is the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series. Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue were prior standalones.

For a review of One Taste Too Many, click here.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
When I decided I wanted to write a cozy, I knew they tended to be about protagonists with culinary or craft skills. My expertise was limited in either area. Frustrated, I realized there had to be readers out there like me – cooks of convenience. Once I decided to have my protagonist mimic my own inaptness, the character flowed. Because I wanted to balance big city and small town life for my character and her twin sister, I created a small southern community fifteen minutes from one of Alabama’s major cities.

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening?
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I write sporadically – fitting it in around my other life activities. When I was on the bench, I wrote on weekends and between midnight and two a.m. Since I walked away from my lifetime appointment, I thought I would write more in the day, but I tend to address social media first thing, outside activities next and write in the latter part of the day.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
My sister is a gourmet cook while I prefer to make things using pre-made ingredients or to bring take-out in. I thought it would be fun to create characters contrasting our kitchen styles. Because I am the mother of fraternal twins, I thought exploring the bond of being night and day twins would enhance the story.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
Sarah Blair – tall, willowy, clumsy and inept in the kitchen – age 28 –younger Sandra Bullock (think Ms. Congeniality or Ya-Ya Sisterhood) or perhaps Jennifer Garner or Claire Foy

Who is your favorite author?
I read in spurts, so I don’t have a favorite author.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
I am going to make my party all female, but depending upon what theme or mood I want for the party, my guest list would be my mother, because I miss her wisdom and wit; Eleanor Roosevelt, for all she saw and did in her own right and as the eyes of her husband; Abigail Adams, for the spunk and intellect she always demonstrated; and two, who I learned during an interview at Bouchercon, are friends because I would like to see how they play off each other: Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
Before I walked away from it to fulfill my passion for writing, I had a fulfilling legal career. I was a litigator before becoming a judge, so if I couldn’t write, that is the career I would return to.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Restaurant Weeks are Murder

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Gluten-free devotee Poppy McAllister is asked to help her former fiance Tim prepare desserts at a local contest in New Jersey. Restaurant Weeks are Murder by Libby Klein finds Poppy as the third member of Tim's restaurant team for the event. (Restaurant Weeks are Murder will be released by Kensington Publishing on February 26.)

The Restaurant Week competition is being hosted at the Cape Community College in the brand new culinary school kitchen. There are six chefs from different local restaurants as part of the event and it is being filmed for local TV and judged by well-known critics. Among the contestants is Adrian Baxter, a former classmate and adversary of Tim's at the Culinary Institute of America. Twenty years ago, he accused Tim of tampering with ingredients in a competition before they graduated. He still holds a grudge.

On the first day of the competition, someone replaces the ingredients with non-toxic replacements such as talcum powder for flour and soy sauce for vanilla. Poppy gets wind of it right away and rectifies the problem for her kitchen, but doesn't tell anyone figuring chefs would catch on themselves like she did. Unfortunately some do not catch on and most of their preparations are ruined by the mix-up. Naturally Adrian blames Tim.

Things go from bad to worse when appliances begin malfunctioning and then one of the judges dies right after eating Poppy's cannoli. An exploding oven and a deep fryer accident don't stop the competition nor Poppy as she continues to investigate. Someone has a secret they want to keep hidden and will stop at nothing to do it.

Poppy is a terrific character and her Aunt Ginny and her crazy friends crack me up.

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Colors of all the Cattle

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This lovely series continues to be delightfully warm, friendly and rich in culture. Although they are not mysteries in the traditional sense, the No 1. Ladies Detective Agency solves problems found in every day life.

In The Colors of All the Cattle by Alexander McCall Smith, Precious Ramotswe is happy operate the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. But Mma Potokwane convinces Mma Ramotswe to run for City Council. Not everyone is comfortable with the decision, including Precious.

When she discovers a developer is planning to build a flashy new Big Fun Hotel adjacent to a graveyard, she decides this is not a respectable way to treat people who are "late." Then Mma Ramotswe enters the race with gusto and finds herself running against Mma Makutsi's nemesis Violet Sephotho, who is in the pocket of the builder.

On the business side, Mma Ramotswe is asked by a friend of her father's to investigate a hit and run accident. Dr. Marang was crossing the street in Mochudi, Precious' hometown, when a car struck and injured him. Although it happened many months ago, Precious says she will investigate.

Charlie, anxious to impress his new girlfriend, offers to speak with someone he knows who is a mechanic in Mochudi. Somehow Charlie gets himself in trouble, but his information helps solve the case.

As election day draws near, Precious is anxious about the results but believes what will be will be.

I love these books because the characters respect each other and their traditions. It is something we are lacking in today's world.

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Nutting Girl

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A movie is coming to Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts and it will star the most famous actress in the world - 21-year-old Juliana Velvet Norcross. In The Nutting Girl by Fred DeVecca, VelCro as she is known, has been a problem child and the director hires retired private detective Frank Raven to protect her.

Frank has been a blind monk, a police officer for a day, a private detective and now is retired, but operating a local movie theater in the small town. He doesn't want to be hired for the job, but is coaxed by the director Nick Mooney.

He finds VelCro to be more interesting than he thought. While getting to know her, they have some deep spiritual discussions that make Frank a little uncomfortable about his previous life.  It soon becomes time to shoot the movie and two extra large football players, Frank calls Frick and Frack, are hired to be bodyguards.

While Frank is performing with the Morris Dancer troupe for the movie, he glances back at VelCro as she, her friend Sarah and the
two bodyguards are sitting on a fence near the river. Suddenly VelCro, Sarah and one of the bodyguards topple into the raging river. Frank dives into the river to try to save someone. It is Sarah he rescues, but there's no sign of VelCro or her bodyguard. Was VelCro pushed or did she commit suicide?

Sarah and Frank refuse to believe VelCro is dead and they use any means available to them to try to track her movements before and after she fell in the river. Did Frack push her as a photo seems to suggest, but she had a smile on her face when she went into the water. Is that significant?

The trail leads Frank and friends back to where it all began for him. A fascinating study of human emotions and where they lead.