Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible

Once again Malice Domestic is presenting a new anthology at the Conference, May 3-5. This one is entitled Mystery Most Edible. We asked authors Nancy Cole Silverman, Vicki Thompson, Cynthia Kuhn, Shawn Reilly Simmons and Edith Maxwell about their contribution to the anthology. They were asked for a synopsis of their short story, how they chose their edible & location, what dish they are famous for cooking and what the worst dish they ever made is. Here's what they said:

Nancy Cole Silverman
1. The Gourmand is about a popular food critic, known for his eccentric tastes and gargantuan
appetite; known to eat several meals at one sitting.

2. I live in Los Angeles and for years worked in talk radio where we had a food critic as a frequent guest.

3. I can’t take credit for the recipe, but my great grandmother made a steamed Christmas pudding with raisins and carrots which has become a staple around our house during the holidays.

4. Potato soup! I was pregnant with my daughter and got the idea to try a series of potato recipes for an all potato meal. Pregnancy does strange things to a woman’s body and mind! The dinner was very white and extremely bland. I’ve never tried anything like it again.

Vicki Thompson1. In my story, Morsels of the Gods, Elizabeth and Felix Decker visit an old friend at her Long Island summer home and uncover secrets they’d rather not know.

2. My story involves a marshmallow roast. Marshmallows had just been invented in the late 1800s and were somewhat of a novelty (and were very expensive). They apparently were also much more delicious than our current “machine made” variety, and roasting them brought out the flavor even more. Marshmallow roasts became social events that were even written up in the society pages of the newspaper. A writer friend suggested marshmallows to me, knowing their history.

3. Lasagna. It is an old family recipe, but not from the Italian side of our family. My dad’s side is 100% Italian and my mom’s side is 0% Italian. My mom was also not a great cook, but she got this recipe from the wife of one of Dad’s cousins (she was also not Italian). It became Mom’s signature dish, and she always made it for company and for covered dish dinners at church. Everyone loved it, everyone except my dad who said it wasn’t really Italian. In any case, hundreds of people all over the country now use my mom’s recipe for lasagna, including me.

4. Like my mom, I am not a great cook. Take your pick! But I make great lasagna.

Cynthia Kuhn
1. The Blue Ribbon focuses on two lifelong friends who discover new things about each
other...unpleasant things.

2. As soon as I read the theme of the anthology, I knew I would write about a pie contest in an upstate New York bakery; an image of the final scene was in my mind immediately. It's rare that ideas descend with such force or detail--usually I get just a tiny wisp to follow--so when they do, I listen.

3. Broccoli casserole. (I wish it was more exciting too.)

4. Probably something from the I Will Now Make Soup Without A Recipe phase, inspired by a cooking show I once watched. It was great fun to throw random things into a pot and see what happened, but it wasn't as much fun to eat it, sadly.

Shawn Reilly Simmons
1. My story features two old friends who started out as culinary students together, but more recently
their careers have gone in separate directions. One of them is a celebrated chef, and the other is a food critic. When a less than flattering review is published, the two men reevaluate their lives and successes, and a few crimes that may have been perpetrated over the past twenty years.

2. I tend to set my stories in places I've lived, so I chose New York City--and also, that location is a well known culinary destination. The food I describe in the story is food I'd make myself, if I owned an upscale eatery in Manhattan's West Village.

3. The style of cuisine I've cooked the most in my life is Italian, especially bolognese sauce. Basically anything Italian I'm very comfortable making. While I'm not even a little bit Italian, my step-grandmother was, and she was passionate about cooking and food, so I think that influence definitely rubbed off on me from very early on. Plus, who doesn't love a big bowl of pasta with homemade sauce?

4. I think we've all had mishaps in the kitchen, but nothing specific comes to mind. I'm rarely disappointed with any food, but I will say I much more enjoy dishes that are made with local, organic produce and proteins. I always try to buy local, visit the farmers markets in my city, and the organic section of my grocery store. I'd much rather eat a tomato from a nearby farm, or my own back yard, than one that was driven across the country, for many reasons but most importantly the freshness of the product, and the reduced carbon footprint attached to it.

Edith Maxwell

1. Nicky teaches conversational English in the greater Tokyo-Yokohama and lives off base with her
boyfriend, Terrance, who is in the US Navy. When she realizes their relationship is in rough shape and he's planning a long trip without her, she unloads her troubles to a local Mama-san bartender one evening when Terrance is at work. Nicky figures out a way to make him need her more - but her plans go terribly wrong.

2. I write two foodie series that come with recipes, both as Maddie Day, both from Kensington Publishing: the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. But when I create short crime fiction, I like to branch out to other locales and sometimes darker topics. I lived in Japan for two years teaching English in the seventies, and have written only one short story set there ("Yatsuhashi for Lance"). My boyfriend and I learned to make sushi from the local fish lady, and when I saw the call for submissions for this anthology, the idea for "Sushi Lessons" rose up. Yes, I lived with a Navy man and sometimes hung out at the local bar, but the rest is fiction, trust me!

3. I'm well known for my apple pies and my sourdough bread

4. How can I pick just one? Because I often don't cook from a recipe, sometimes my improvisations are a huge success - which I can never recreate because I didn't record what went into it - and sometimes a total fail. Here's one: when I was learning to bake bread, I found some whole rye flour and baked a loaf of yeasted bread the same way I always baked with whole wheat flour. I didn't know rye doesn't have gluten in it and won't rise. My loaf was a brick. If we sliced it super thin and toasted it, it was passably edible. Never again!

Watch for a MapYourMystery.com giveaway featuring Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible the week of May 13.

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Missing Corpse

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Commissaire Dupin and his team have been involved in several odd cases, by The Missing Corpse by Jean-Luc Bannalec, tests their investigating skills and Dupin's patience.

Along the shores of the Brittany coast where the world's best oysters are harvested, Commissaire Dupin is finally feeling he can call himself a Breton even though he is originally from Paris. And as the world knows, everything worth inventing, discovering and making originated in Brittany. When a call comes in to police headquarters from a elderly actress about a body, Dupin rushes to the scene. 

When he gets there the body has disappeared and the actress has gone home. When he questions her she is decidedly vague about details and many think she has imagined the body.  A few days later Dupin receives a phone call about another body. This one has fallen from a cliff along the hiking trails. 
Complicating matters is Dupin's team. Riwal is sitting for the final exam for "Breton Languages and Cultures" and Kadeg has himself tied up in a clandestine investigation of sand theft, so Dupin has to include some other local police in the mysterious case. Are the two deaths related? Have there really been two corpses or is Madame Bandol imagining things?

No one knows who the victims are until one is identified by a tattoo on his arm. The mystery takes Riwal to Scotland and the secret Celtic societies and myths about the area surrounding the Belon River. The case seems to veer off in one direction, only to bounce back and the Prefect is anxious to claim glory through a press conference. What is a Commissaire to do?

These books have been so entertaining to read. The Bretons are extremely proud of their area and Commissaire Dupin is learning what makes them tick. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Diva Sweetens the Pie

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Everyone loves pie and when the annual Old Town Pie Festival rolls around, there is excitement everywhere. In The Diva Sweetens the Pie by Krista Davis, the Festival is abuzz with the news that TV star chef Patsy Lee Presley will be one of the judges. Sophie Winston isn't entering this year, but she is happy to help with the event. (The Diva Sweetens the Pie will be released by Kensington Books on April 29)

Patsy Lee, a small town girl who has made good, is back in town and her fans are flocking to see her. Tagging along is her not-so-popular ex-husband, but marketing genius behind her success, Peter Presley. Rumor has it, though, that Patsy Lee for all her tales about learning baking at her "Meemaw's knee" is a terrible cook.

The Pie Festival is rife with people who have know Patsy Lee and not always liked her. There are lots of fake hugs and kisses with some of Patsy Lee's former friends and chefs, but the atmosphere around the Festival is festering with bitterness and envy. That's especially true for local TV personality Natasha Smith who fancies herself a rival to Patsy. This year Natasha has been banned from entering the pie contest
because of a colossal disaster last year that caused serious mouth burns to the judges. Natasha is a world unto herself.

Sophie gets roped into accepting the pie entries and giving each one an anonymous number. But before a single pie can be tasted, Patsy Lee tumbles from the stage, face first into a pie, oh yes and dead.

Before long Sophie finds herself as a suspect. Another tasty mystery with delicious recipes at the end. And you will be craving pie by the time you finish this book.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Winner is Announced

The winner of the Daryl Wood Gerber book giveaway was Sharon Dixon from Virginia. She will receive a book of her choice - she chose Final Sentence, the first book in the Cookbook Nook series. 

Thanks to Daryl for the book and to everyone who entered. 

Watch for another MapYourMystery giveaway featuring
an autographed copy of the new anthology:
Malice Domestic: Mystery Most Edible after May 14. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Interview with Sophie Hannah

Please relate the story of how you came to write the Poirot mysteries 
It came about completely by chance. My agent was in a meeting with HarperCollins and the subject of these Jane Austen continuations came up and my agent remembered at that point that HarperCollins were Agatha’s publishers and that I was an Agatha fan. He told the editor this, and he said, ‘Why don't you ask my author, Sophie Hannah, to write a new Christie-brand novel?' The editor said, 'We’ve been trying to persuade the Christie family for decades. They will not hear of any new books.’ So that was that. 
Sophie Hannah, (right)
speakers with Patricia
Skalka, Chicago Chapter
of Sisters in Crime 

But it turned out that the day after the meeting with my agent, HarperCollins had a meeting with the Christies who said, ‘You'll never believe this, but we’ve decided that now is the time to commission a new novel, some kind of Christie continuation.’ At which point the editor said, ‘I know an agent who’s got the perfect author.’ So then I met the Christies and they asked if I had an idea for a book. I hadn’t, because I hadn’t ever thought I would do it, but I immediately realized that an idea I’d had for years, but never used, would be perfect for Poirot. They really liked it, and it all just went from there.

Do you have plans to write more than the four Poirot mysteries written? If so how many more are you planning?
I've only written and published three so far: The Monogram Murders (2014), Closed Casket (2016) and The Mystery of Three Quarters (2018). I’m currently writing the fourth which will be published in August next year. After that, I don't know – I haven't made plans beyond 2021.

How have readers responded to your Poirot?
I've been sent hundreds of emails, tweets and messages from people who have absolutely loved my Poirot novels. Quite a few people said they weren’t sure at first whether anyone but Agatha would be able to do justice to Poirot, but that they ended up loving the books, which is obviously always very gratifying to hear!

What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy?
I enjoy creating stories that I love and hope readers will too and I enjoy the freedom of the lifestyle. Until recently, I did not enjoy the stress and pressure, but then I realized those aren't external, unavoidable things - those are things I create for myself by thinking in the wrong way. I’ve found that in changing the way I think about my working life, I’ve been able to eliminate the stress. In order to help other writers address this very issue I’ve created a coaching program called DREAM AUTHOR which will launch in September 2019. The program is aimed at writers of any genre, at any stage in their career and aims to equip them with the mental and emotional tools they need in order to thrive as a writer. Anyone interested can get further details by emailing sophie@sophiehannah.com.

How do you get yourself out of a writing rut?
See above! By learning to think about my writing in the correct, most helpful way – which is exactly what my DREAM AUTHOR program will be teaching. I’ve discovered that there’s no need for ruts, blocks, feeling stuck or procrastinating: all these obstacles are a choice which we can avoid with the right mindset!

What books did you read growing up?
I was hooked on mysteries from a young age, I loved Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven, The Famous Five and The Find-Outers and the McGurk Mysteries by E W Hildick.

Who is your favorite author?
Agatha Christie for crime and Iris Murdoch for general fiction.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Well, first of all I'd meet them at a restaurant and take them out for dinner because cooking is something I've stopped doing in order to create more time for things I enjoy. Agatha Christie, Enid Blyton, Iris Murdoch, Daphne Du Maurier and Edna St Vincent Millay (brilliant American poet).

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
I’d be a Life Coach (which I'm doing already, via DREAM AUTHOR, my coaching program for writers, and I also coach teenagers at a local school in Cambridge, where I live). Or, a Songwriter – which I’m also doing already having written the songs for two musicals: The Mystery of Mr. E - a murder mystery musical - and Work Experience – a locked room mystery musical. The Mystery of Mr. E was staged at Sancton Wood School, Cambridge in 2017, and then at three literary festivals in 2018, and hopefully more this year starting with Southwold's ‘Slaughter in Southwold’s Crime Fiction Festival on 8 June, Work Experience was performed for the first time in March this year. 

To find out more about Sophie, visit her website www.sophiehannah.com. To hear more about Sophie's DREAM AUTHOR coaching programme, email sophie@sophiehannah.com with 'DREAM AUTHOR' in the subject line, and the DREAM AUTHOR team will send you more information.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Breaking the Dance

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Hollis and Finn Larsson think their spy days are over after their experience in Ireland, but when one of her grad assistants hands Hollis a mysterious package, it might be back to the whirlwind. In Breaking the Dance by Clare O'Donohue, the package contains passports for Janice and Tim McCabe with Hollis and Finn's photos in place. (Breaking the Dance will be released by Midnight Ink on May 7.)

A note in Spanish points to trouble for someone they know in Buenos Aires. The note also warns them to beware of Jorge Videla, but Videla is a long-dead, human rights violator in Argentina. It also says someone will contact them in 24 hours.

They cannot decide if they should call Peter Moodley, their former British spy contact, but he beats them to it and appears in the middle of the night. He also shows them a dead body in their living room. 

The next day they are drugged, kidnapped and whisked away on a
private jet to Argentina. When they arrive in Buenos Aires, their kidnappers believe they are assassins known as Tim and Janice McCabe and their cover as college professors is perfect. No matter how much they argue, they cannot convince the men they are not professionals.

Naturally when they arrive in Buenos Aires, they find their old pal Declan Murphy is somehow involved. Although they keep trying to convince the men they are not assassins, they become more deeply involved chasing from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia in the tip of Argentina and back to Iguazu Falls.

This is not your everyday adventure for two college professors! Hollis and Finn Larsson prove once again that they are up to the task as spies. Another enjoyable chase through some of Agentina's most beautiful, scenic areas.

Monday, April 22, 2019

A Murderous Malady

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It's 1854 and another outbreak of cholera has London in its grip. With various theories on how it spreads, Florence Nightingale works to treat the people infected. In A Murderous Malady by Christine Trent, there is more than cholera killing people. (A Murderous Malady will be published by Crooked Lane Books on May 17.)

When the coach shared by Elizabeth Herbert, the wife of the Secretary at War Sidney Herbert, and her father is fired upon in Soho, the coachman dies. Soon after Herbert's valet stumbles into to Florence's Establishment for Gentlewomen, a victim of cholera. Worried that someone is targeting his wife Herbert implores Florence to investigate the strange occurrence.

While Florence has her hands full with cholera victims, she nevertheless travels to Soho, the hot spot for the disease to investigate along with her faithful assistance Mary Clarke. Florence discovers a strange pair of dice in the pocket of the dead valet and despite asking everyone involved, cannot seem to determine the secret behind them. And there are many secrets kept in the Herbert family including Elizabeth's father's past experiences in Afghanistan, Sidney's prior love life and the special position in the household held by a privileged ladies maid.

Meanwhile Florence is battling not only cholera, but filthy hospitals and no nurses at one hospital in particular. When asked by the physicians at the hospital what they can do to quell the startling death rate, she encourages them to separate the injured from the sick, wash the sheets, clean the walls and open the windows. I know it sounds simple, but it was not the norm in those days to keep hospitals clean. Yikes!

By analyzing the research created by Dr. Snow and Reverend Henry Whitehead, they conclude that a water source is causing the spread of cholera rather than a naturally occurring miasma. This was a milestone in the prevention of cholera.

But Florence knows she needs to solve the murder of the Herbert's coachman before someone else dies. If you enjoy historical fiction you will love Florence Nightingale in London.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Reading Promotes STEM

My young fifth grader "friends" in Mr. Wollner's class at Murphy School in Round Lake Park are appreciating their Scintillating STEM Supplements. I'm happy to help them through DonorsChoose.org 
In Mr. Wollner's words, "I am looking to purchase extension activities to further enhance the student experience in my Project Lead The Way classroom. The devices will be put to use as enrichment activities for early finishers, and as options to use when students have earned a free-choice engineering day. The Parrot Mambo Drone is compatible with the coding app being used by the 4th and 5th grade students.

Students will be able to apply their newly acquired coding skills to write code that will navigate the drone to complete a task. The drone will provide an exciting way to extend student learning."

If you are looking to assist a classroom in your hometown or any other place, go to DonorsChoose.org and you will be able to help.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Catch Me When I'm Falling

When Charlie's mother asks her to look into the death of a friend, Charlie knows this could have many risks. First, the death took place in Detroit's notorious Corridor, second, the police think the crime isn't worth investigating and third, Charlie is in the midst of selling her place and purchasing a house with her partner Mandy. In Catch Me When I'm Falling by Cheryl Head, Charlie decides to go undercover as a street person to investigate.

The Corridor is a dangerous place filled with drug trafficking, homelessness and now murder. As Charlie investigates, she discovers several other homeless people have been killed and their bodies burned. When she tries to convince the police there is a serial killer at work, they resist the idea.

With the assistance of a homeless man named Reggie whose friend was one of those killed, Charlie goes undercover to learn who is killing these people and why. Waiting in a food line, standing around a barrel fire and doing odd jobs takes Charlie deep into the world of the homeless.

What she discovers leads her to a sadistic killer with ties to a local drug dealer and a connection to the already compromised Detroit police department. With the help of her feisty mother Josephine, a crack researcher, and her partners in the Mack Investigations Agency, begin to put the pieces together and the answers will force the police to take action.

A tense, dark mystery with vivid descriptions of the atmosphere in the Corridor.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Interview with Daryl Wood Gerber

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
Sifting Through Clues. This is the 8th in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries. It will be my 19th book
Daryl Wood Gerber

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How did you develop your character and choose your location?
In this series, I started with the shop. I know that sounds “different,” but here’s why I did. For a book signing for my Cheese Shop Mysteries (which I write as Avery Aames) I went to a darling culinary bookshop in Occoquan, Virginia and fell in love. I knew I had to write about a culinary bookshop. But I set in on the coast of California because California is my home. I’ve lived by the beach and thought that would be the perfect setting. Then I came up with my protagonist, Jenna Hart, a former advertising executive who has lost her smile. When her aunt asks her to move home to help her open the culinary bookshop, Jenna jumps at the chance. One small problem – Jenna is not a cook. She is a foodie and she adores books. In the first book, she has to learn everything…from scratch.

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What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy? I love working by myself on my hours. I can write at 3 a.m. or 6 p.m. I enjoy being able to talk out loud to myself and not think I’m crazy. LOL There’s not much I don’t enjoy except when I feel like I’m not “nailing” the story. However, if I have to work to make a story come alive, that’s fine. I enjoy a challenge.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
No. None of my characters are “me,” and yet they could be. They all love their family and friends. They are loyal. They are curious by nature. I’m over 50. All my protagonists are younger. Maybe I’m reliving my youth?

How do you get yourself out of a writing rut?
I don’t believe in a writer’s block. So if I’m feeling like I’m in a rut, I put my rear end in a chair and write something – anything. A letter, a grocery list. Get my mind in gear. If I have to, I’ll reread two to three chapters to jumpstart ideas. When all else fails, I refer to my outline and tweak and tweak until something comes together that feels like inspiration. Mark Twain said, “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
For the Cookbook Nook Mysteries, I’d like to see Angie Harmon. She’s exactly who I pictured when I created Jenna. Now, Jenna is not tough like the Rizzoli character Angie played in the past, but she’s frisky and smart and resolute.

Who is your favorite author?
I have so many it wouldn’t be fair to list them all. I have read everything Krista Davis has written. I’ve read nearly everything Lisa Gardner has written. I enjoy reading Harlan Coben and Daniel Silva. I loved reading Agatha Christie and often reread her work. For individual books: I absolutely adored The Three Musketeers, Rebecca, and so many more.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Steve Martin, Audrey Hepburn, and Agatha Christie. Talk about a smart crowd! Can you imagine the conversation?

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
Well, I did cater before becoming an actress and before becoming a writer. So maybe I’d go back to catering. I love to cook. But the hours can be excruciating. I’d love to do standup comedy but someone would have to write my material. LOL I could be a life coach or career guidance counselor for teenagers. I really enjoy this phase of kids. They’re so eager to move forward.

Great questions. Made me think.

Agatha Award-winning Daryl Wood Gerber writes the nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries as well as the French Bistro Mysteries. As Avery Aames, she pens the popular Cheese Shop Mysteries. Daryl also writes stand-alone suspense. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote.” She loves to cook, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

SIfting for Clues

For a chance to win one of Daryl Wood Gerber's books or this one, click the link a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest ends at Midnight, Sunday, April 21. US and Canada

The Book Club Bonanza opens in Crystal Cove, California, with book club members attending from near and far. In Sifting for Clues by Daryl Wood Gerber, Jenna Hart has the Cookbook Nook stocked with all kinds of tempting cookbooks. (Sifting Through Clues will be released by Beyond the Page Publishing on April 23.)

She's most excited about participating with the Mystery Mavens book club in their movable feast dinner. The plan is to have one course at each house sample the food, discuss the mystery they are reading (The Diva Serves High Tea by Krista Davis) then move on to the next course.

When they arrive at Ivy Beale's home, they find her dead - stabbed in the chest with a rose quartz shard. Two gold colored quartz pieces are placed over her eyes and a bonsai tree pot is beside her head. Who would kill Ivy, the owner of Dreamcatcher, anew age healing stone and crystal shop?

Turns out there is not a shortage of suspects and first among them
is Pepper Pritchett, the police chief's mother. Pepper and Ivy have been known to go toe to toe and lately they seemed to be competing for Pepper's boyfriend Hank Hemmings. But Ivy also made lots of enemies because she knew secrets about people and wasn't afraid to use them.

Jenna knows her friend Chief Pritchett doesn't like her to be involved, but she feels she needs to investigate, especially as she discovered the body.  That doesn't sit well with the chief, but Jenna quietly begins to ask questions. What she finds surprises and worries her; there are more suspects than she expected.

Another delectable mystery with mouthwatering recipes included.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Your Choice Giveaway

Daryl Wood Gerber and MapYourMystery.com present a new Giveaway! Contest ends Midnight, Sunday, April 21.

One lucky winner will get a choice of any of Daryl Wood Gerber's books, though you’ll have to wait until April 23 for a paper copy of Sifting Through Clues. Open to US and Canada only.

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Friday, April 12, 2019

Wed, Read & Dead

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Sam's mother announces that she is getting married in three weeks on Christmas Eve throwing everyone into a tizzy. In Wed, Read & Dead by V.M. Burns, the family has only just recently learned Grace Hamilton is planning to remarry. On top of it, she is planning to marry one of the richest men in Southwestern Michigan - Harold Robertson.

Grace Hamilton has always approached life with a princess attitude which Sam attributes to her father's desire to abet this behavior. Now it seems Harold has the same goal in mind, so when Grace decides her daughters need to wear bubble gum pink bridesmaid dresses, Sam says no way.

With the clock ticking towards Christmas Eve, Sam know she doesn't have time to organize her mother's wedding.But when the wedding planner from hell appears, everyone runs for cover. Lydia Lighthouse has her own ideas of what should be included in the wedding and spares no thought to the expense. Before long Lydia has offended nearly everyone, including her own team members.

No one is surprised when her attitude leads to murder and the groom-to-be is a suspect. Harold has been heard to say he would like to strangle her and when Lydia is found strangled, things look bleak for Harold and the wedding. As Sam learns more about Lydia Lighthouse and her Grace's future in-laws, she starts to piece together a list of suspects.

With the help of her grandmother's Sleuthing Seniors, Sam is able to solve the murder and save the wedding. Nana Jo and her friends are a riot and their efforts to solve the crime are ingenious.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

A Deadly Feast

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Hayley and Nathan have finally set the wedding date and it will be during the Thanksgiving weekend. In A Deadly Feast by Lucy Burdette, plans are never set in stone when you are marrying a police detective. (A Deadly Feast will be released by by Crooked Lanes Books on May 7.)

As for Hayley, she sets out on a seafood tasting tour with some visitors for an article she is writing, then one of the participants falls over dead. Because most of the stops on the tour are run by her friends, Hayley wants to prove it wasn't food poisoning that caused the woman to die. 

Especially hard hit is Chef Martha at Isle Cook Key West because, at first, it appears her key lime pie in mason jars might be the culprit. As like anywhere in the country, a restaurant's livelihood depends on customer satisfaction, Nothing ruins a reputation more than your food killing one of your customers. 

Hayley worries for her friend Analise who operates the tours, so
she decides to recreate the stops on the tour and ask questions. The secrets she finds leads Hayley into trouble of her own. She discovers a long ago connection between some of the tour participants and one of the restaurant owners that may have lead to the death. 

On the wedding planning side, Hayley's father and his new family will be meeting Nathan for the first time. Knowing her father, she is anxious about the first meeting with Nathan. Unfortunately Nathan doesn't show up for the rehearsal or for Thanksgiving dinner the next day. When constant texting, phoning and badgering his boss Steve Torrence brings no news of Nathan, Hayley's anxiety level skyrockets.

Where is Nathan? Why is Hayley so freaked over Lorenzo's reading? Will Hayley ever be able to eat key lime pie in a Mason jar? Who killed the tourist? For the answers to these and other questions, read A Deadly Feast. A delectable morsel. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Interview with Mariah Fredericks

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My new book is called Death of a New American. It’s the second in the Jane Prescott series and the twelfth book I’ve published.

How did you become interested in historical fiction and who do you research your books?
As a kid, historical fiction was my favorite genre. I went through all of Jean Plaidy and Mary Renault as well as less famous but equally awesome writers like Elizabeth Byrd and Rosemary Hawley Jarman. At that time, American history didn’t fascinate me as much. Peaceful transition of power? No heads chopped off when the new government comes in? How boring. But working on this series, I’ve found that 1910s America is plenty violent.

As for research, I start by buying way too many books. I rough out the basic events of the year the book takes place. What was going on politically, socially, culturally. That research usually gives me the theme for the novel. But I also do research to determine how events and trends were seen at the time. For example, the Titanic sinks at the beginning of Death of a New
American. How did people see that tragedy in the days after it happened? For that kind of research, The New York Times digital archives are a godsend. You can comb through articles for 1912 and see different perspectives of the disaster unfold. The vision of brave men sacrificing themselves for women and children was much more important to commentators of the time whereas our era tends to be more focused on the class divide.

Photographs are also hugely important when I have to recreate the city in which Jane lives and moves. How crowded are the streets? Where are the trains? Do women walk by themselves? What do they wear? What’s the traffic like? Here the New York Public Library’s online catalog of prints and photographs is fantastic. You want to know what the entrance to the New York Zoological Park looked like in 1912? They have that image.

What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy?
Enjoy? Pretty much everything. Spending my day in my imaginary world with characters chattering away in my head is heaven. I feel extraordinarily lucky that I get paid to do that. Writing a historical set in my hometown means I get to walk around the city, seeing it through Jane’s eyes. That’s another great pleasure. I get to talk to readers who are invested in my characters and want to know what happens to them. It’s the best.

One thing I find tricky is balancing the inner and outer focus of today’s writing life. There’s the quiet do-the-work headspace where you’re just living the story. Then there’s the focus on the external response to your work: reviews, sales, networking. That requires a different mindset and I don’t find the two co-exist easily. I don’t do my best writing when I’m in promotion mode. You’re listening to different voices.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
Jane Prescott is her own person. She started talking to me more than a decade ago and she had her own voice, her own history and point of view. I don’t feel so much her creator as her typist.

Having said that, she and I do have things in common. Jane is a listener and observer. I like her sense of humor, also her instinct to look at the person rather than their status. She has enormous affection for Louise Benchley, who is rich. She is also devoted to her best friend Anna, who is an anarchist. Her aversion to callousness and arrogance is something I can relate to.

How do you get yourself out of a writing rut?
I am very comfortable writing badly. It doesn’t scare me because I know from experience that as long as I leave enough time for leisurely rewrites, I’m good. But I won’t have anything to rewrite if I don’t get something on the page, so…better churn out some pages! If it’s going really poorly, I’ll stop writing in sequence for a while and only write characters I love and scenes I feel on that day. That usually builds my faith back up.

I can get into a rut because part of my mind is focused on how people will react to the book. “What’s happening on Goodreads? Are there any new reviews? What’s my Amazon rating?” Most writers have to pay some attention to promotion now and it can be fun. But it can also make you see your story as a product or something that will trigger good or bad feelings in someone else. You stop experiencing it as its own authentic world. When that happens, I make a concerted effort to tune out external feedback. (Excuse me while I google myself…)

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
When I was writing the first book, I envisioned someone like Carey Mulligan playing Jane. I saw her in Bleak House when she was very young and I thought, Dear God, if she can play a Dickens heroine, she can play anything. She’s able to convey enormous intelligence and real kindness. And she can play someone who works for a living, which not all actors can do, oddly.

As to who I would want—I am happy to entertain all offers!

Who is your favorite author?
Oh, God, “favorite” is so hard. The people I read again and again are Dominick Dunne, David Handler, Minette Walters, Ira Levin. I just discovered George Saunders. I love Edward St. Aubyn. Can’t wait for the next Hilary Mantel.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
I’m a born and bred, die hard New Yorker, but I have a soft spot for Texas. So I always thought it would be amazing to have Liz Smith, Molly Ivins, and Ann Richards to dinner because they knew one another and would be funny as hell on the state of the nation. We could have Larry McMurtry and LBJ join us for dessert.

Or at a separate dinner, I’d have David Sedaris, P.G. Wodehouse, Alan Bennett, Alison Bechdel, and Roz Chast.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
Sell books. I worked in Shakespeare and Co. an Book-of-the-Month Club for many years and it was great. Either that or work in some tiny way for the RSC or the National Theatre in London.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

When We Left Cuba

Beatriz Perez was always the wild one when the family lived in Cuba. Now living in Florida after the Cuban Revolution, Beatriz is more reckless than before. In When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton, the 1960s was a tumultuous time in Florida for Cubans forced from their country by Castro.

She knows how much her family sacrificed - their home, their sugar business, their country and most of all her beloved twin brother. Aching for revenge, she is the perfect candidate to be recruited by the CIA. It's the height of the Cold War and the U.S government doesn't want a Communist base located 90 miles south of Florida, so they recruit Beatriz to infiltrate Castro's inner circle.

Castro has always had a fondness for attractive, young women and Beatriz suits that description perfectly bringing her own brand of recklessness with her. Brash to a fault, Beatriz tries to capture Fidel's eye in Cuba while dazzling a soon-to-be engaged rising star young Senator.

Playing a dangerous game that could jeopardize her family even in Florida, Beatriz blatantly begins a
public affair with Senator Nick Preston III while pursuing her plan for revenge against Castro. Preston tries to convince her to give up her raging anger, but she is not to be dissuaded and sets off to Havana to join Castro's inner circle.

A lush, gorgeous story of revenge, lust, love and justice rolled into the lives of the American privileged class and the once-upon-a-time Cuban privileged class.

Enter to win a $100 Amazon Gift Card, Lilly Pulitzer palm tree necklace and earrings set, When We Left Cuba coffee mug, Besame cosmetics vintage-inspired lipstick, signed When We Left Cuba recipe cards, and signed When We Left Cuba bookmarks. The giveaway will run from April 7-20.

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Winner will be announced by Chanel Cleeton 

Monday, April 8, 2019

Shell Game

Sara Paretsky's novels always make me shake my fist in anger at the hopelessness of bureaucracy.  All our favorite bad apples and a few new ones appear in this book - ICE, the government, fat cat billionaires, people who prey on others, oh and the Russian mob. Shell Game has V.I. Warshawski up against some ruthless, amoral people.

When Lottie's nephew Felix is dragged to the site where a body is discovered in the middle of the night, V.I. Warshawski is at his side. He doesn't know the victim, but inside the pocket is Felix's name and phone number. Of course that does not stop the authorities from detaining him and accusing Felix of working with ISIS, even though he is Canadian.

As Vic digs deeper into the victim, she discovers Lawrence Fausson was obsessed with Middle East archaeology and had worked on a dig in Syria as a graduate student. She soon connects him to The Oriental Institute and a Syrian Community Center in the suburbs. Naturally any connection to the Middle East attracts the attention of ICE.

Also in the mix are her two nieces (from her long-ago marriage to Dick Yarborough) Reno and
Harmony. Both girls have lead tragic lives living with their drug-addicted, sexually abusive mother, but they seem to have survived despite her lifestyle. When Harmony turns up in Chicago asking Vic to help her find her missing sister Reno, Vic loves nothing better than pulling her ex-husband's chain and sending him into a rage.

While investigating Vic finds herself tangling with the Russian mob, missing artifacts, a shady network of stock scams who prey on financially-distressed people and her missing niece. Connecting the dots before someone else is murdered is a top priority.

An action-packed adventure that leads from Chicago to the Boundary Waters  with impacts in Syria and the Middle East. And in a twist of ironic fate, justice is served at the end. One of Paretsky's best novels. 

Even if you have never read any of the previous V.I. Warshawski books (and why haven't you), this one is superb. 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Dying for Devil's Food

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High school is difficult enough, but when the mean girls decide to make you their favorite target, it can be downright painful. In Dying for Devil's Food by Jenn McKinlay, Melanie Cooper was one of those abused teens. Now 15 years later she is a successful business woman and is engaged to a handsome district attorney, so she wants no part in the upcoming high school reunion. (Dying for Devil's Food will be released on May 7 by Berkley Publishing Group. Thanks to First To Read for the copy.)  

Her partner Angie DeLaura-Harper badgers her into baking 500 cupcakes decorated with the school colors and then forces her to attend the reunion. Mel knows her nemesis Cassidy Havers will be primed and ready to do battle again.

Sure enough when Mel walks in Cassidy and her mean girls start giving her a hard time, but Mel isn't going to engage with them. She tries to enjoy herself and chat with other people including her first crush Daniel Griffin. Unfortunately Dan Griffin is married to the wicked witch Cassidy and she doesn't take kindly to Mel dancing with Dan.

Naturally she tries to create a scene, but Mel doesn't engage. As Mel and Joe are preparing to depart the reunion, Mel discovers Cassidy dead in the ladies room. As she backs out of the ladies room, she encounters two of the mean girls Brittany and Lianne. On the wall are letters spelling M-E-L in bright red lipstick. Naturally they think she killed Cassidy.

The rest of the cliche gangs up on Mel and the police want her to take a lie detector test. Even though her Uncle Stan is investigating, she still takes and passes the lie detector test. That's not enough for some of Cassidy's gang, so Mel, Angie and Tate decide to investigate.

If you have the will power to read without craving cupcakes, you're a better person than I am.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Gun Also Rises

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When a wealthy Massachusetts widow hires Sara Winston to sell her enormous mystery collection through her garage sale business, Sarah is in mystery fan heaven. It's all she can do to not read every Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie and other mysteries she is sorting through. In The Gun Also Rises by Sherry Harris, Sarah is diligently working in the attic stuffed with books when she discovers a small overnight case. What she finds leads her into murder.

The overnight case contains short stories written by Ernest Hemingway in 1922, but lost when the case was stolen from a train in Paris. How in the world did it end up in the home of  Belle Winthrop Granville? Does Miss Belle even know the case and papers were in her attic?

Sarah shows Miss Belle the traveling case and the manuscripts, but she doesn't know anything about them or how they managed to be stored in her home. Miss Belle asks to be left alone to digest the news, but when Sarah returns, she finds Miss Belle injured and lying on the floor - and the overnight case gone. When Sarah learns the housekeeper Kay has stolen the case, she leaps into action, chasing into the woods after her.

When she finds, Kay dead and the overnight case missing, this leads her on a hunt for the stolen case. When she learns there might also be a first edition copy of The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway hidden in the house, a frantic search begins. Included in the search is a quirky, fanatical group known as The League of Literary Treasure Hunters, a rare-book dealer who happens to be a friend of the family and a mobster. 

For a high spirited treasure hunt, The Gun Also Rises has all that and more. An excellent book with just the right about of reality thrown in to make it plausible. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Interview with Kellye Garrett

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My latest title is Hollywood Ending, which is the second book in my Detective by Day series. It was
just nominated for a Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery and named CrimeReads most fun book of 2018.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
When I came up with the Detective by Day series idea, I was working in Hollywood as a TV writer. They say write what you know and that’s exactly what I did. I wrote who I knew too. As a black woman who’s been a long-time mystery lover, I wanted to see more women who looked like me, my mom, my best friend and so on as the one’s solving the mystery for once.

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 wish I was one of those regimented writers who get up at 5:00 am and religiously pound out 1500 words while the rest of the world sleeps. I’m not. (My fave quote is from Dorothy Parker: "I hate writing. I love having written.") I usually write at about 8:00 at night when I literally have nothing else I can do, including clean my toilet.

For a review of Hollywood Ending, click here.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
I did though Dayna takes way more risks that I would. There’s no way I’d ever try to solve a murder,
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no matter how high the reward money was! Luckily, she’s not like me in that sense. I wrote my first book, Hollywood Homicide, at a time when I was kind of at a career crossroads and felt a bit lost. And I put a lot of that angst in Dayna, who is at a career crossroads but not sure where to go next.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
I think Aja Naomi King from How To Get Away With Murder would be such a perfect Day.

Who is your favorite author?
That’s like picking your favorite child. Some of my favorites includes Barbara Neely, Valerie Wilson Wesley and Sue Grafton.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
I’m going to go rogue here and just pick one. My maternal grandmother was murdered five days before I was born. It’s a very weird feeling knowing there was someone who was super close to your immediate family but that you don’t know and will never meet. My mom and aunts have always done a great job of sharing information about her—both good and bad. They all agree that I get my outspokenness from her (and my paternal grandmother as well). By all accounts, Phyllis Skinner was an amazing and passionate woman. I would love to spend a few hours talking with her about her life, thanking her for raising such amazing women, and, of course, hearing stories about how bad my mom as a child was so that I can use it for leverage today.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
I actually have a day job still and I work in communications. So I definitely would do something writing related, whatever it is.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Murder From Scratch

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Still trying to get her balance as owner of her late aunt's restaurant Gauguin, Sally Solari is working out a partnership with her head chef Javier. When she learns of the death of a fringe relative, she doesn't realize what is in store for her.

In Murder from Scratch by Leslie Karst, it tuns out the dead woman has a daughter and Sally's father volunteers his daughter as a guardian of sorts. Although Evelyn is nearly 21 and probably doesn't need a caretaker, the shock of her mother's death, possibly suicide or accident, in their home has left her without a place to stay. No problem for Sally, except Evelyn is blind. (Murder from Scratch will be released by Crooked Lane Books on April 9.)

That in itself would not be an issue, but sending the young woman to the place where her mother died would be cruel and unfeeling. When Sally meets Evelyn, she realizes how self sufficient she is and will really only need minimal assistance from Sally.

When Evelyn returns home to gather some of her belongings, her heightened senses tell her various objects are out of place in the home. She begins to believe her mother was murdered. The police don't find evidence of murder an dismiss Evelyn's thoughts.

Restaurant jealousies rear their heads and Sally finds herself in the middle of feuding chefs and restaurant intrigue as she works to find the murderer.

Another scrumptious adventure by Leslie Karst in culinary mystery fiction.

Monday, April 1, 2019

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

Frances Glessner Lee was a woman before her time. Her interest in criminal investigation and forensic evidence lead her to be a well-known authority in the field in until she died in 1962. 

Saturday night I had the opportunity to attend a lecture at Chicago's Glessner House to learn about The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, the miniature crime scenes she created.  In 1931 Lee provided funds to Harvard Medical School to endow the Chair of Legal Medicine and had her long-time friend Dr. George Burgess Magrath in charge. 

During the time he was the chair, they worked together on forensic science and after he died, Mrs. Lee was named director of education for the New Hampshire State Police. In 1945 she oversaw the creation of the first seminar for Homicide Investigation for State Police at Harvard Medical School.

That's when Mrs. Lee created the miniature crime scenes, known as The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death.
The models depicted scenes of crimes that could be murder, suicide, an accident and natural causes. The model above is called The Netshell Attic. Miss Jessie Compton was discovered dead in her house by Mr. Harry Frazer, a milk delivery man. Was it suicide or murder?

The picture at the right is the Red Bedroom. Marie Jones, prostitute, found dead by her landlady, Mrs. Shirley Flanagan. Is it murder, suicide or an accident?

The miniatures were used to train officers how to look for clues and not be swayed by first impressions. They are still in use today and are housed in Baltimore in the Medical Examiner's Office. 

Way before The Nutshell Studies, Mrs. Lee created a miniature of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and gave it to her mother as a gift. The orchestra is displayed at Glessner House on Prairie Avenue. 

For more information on The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, click here.