Monday, September 23, 2019

Beyond a Reasonable Stout

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 20, 2019

Murder in the Corn Maze

Stella Reid is raising her seven grandchildren to be good citizens, but sometimes battling sisters Vidalia and Marietta have her at wit's end. Good thing Savannah is as level headed as she is. In Murder in the Corn Maze by G.A.McKevett, the family's plans to attend a corn maze are disrupted by a body.  (Murder in the Corn Maze will be released by Kensington Publishers on September 24.)

When Stella and Savannah accidentally encounter a skeleton on the fringes of the corn maze, they don't panic, especially when Stella recognizes the remains as someone who disappeared 40 years ago. Sheriff Manny Gilford arrives on the scene, and tentatively agrees with Stella that the corpse is long-missing Becky Dingle. Stella recognizes the purple and pink flowered dress Mrs. Dingle used to wear and the leather Cherokee barrette in her hair. 

When Becky disappeared, her abusive husband told everyone she had run away with another man, now it seems that was not true. More heartbreaking for Stella is knowing how her friend Elsie, Becky's daughter, had mourned for her missing mother over the years. Now more heartbreak for Elsie was on the way as the police try to discover who murdered Becky.  

As Stella and Manny investigate, they discover similarities between Becky's death and the deaths of several other women in the area, including Stella's own mother. Could Stella's long-dead father be the killer or is it someone who is still alive in McGill, Georgia? Savannah jumps right in with the archaeology crew investigating the site and Stella is happy to have her distracted with this aspect of the case. Savannah knows she is going to be a policewoman when she grows up, and as loyal readers know, she does. 

More tales from the roots of the Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency reaching back to the 1980s. A clever mystery with lots of Southern flavor. 

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Christmas Cow Bells

Who knew cows could be depressed? In Christmas Cow Bells by Mollie Cox Bryannew farmer Brynn MacAlister learns some valuable information about cows as she tries to make a success of her farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In the first in the new Buttermilk Creek Mystery series by Bryan, Brynn has had to take the reins of her farm by herself after splitting with her boyfriend. (Christmas Cow Bells will be released by Kensington Publishing on September 24.)

One of Brynn's cows has taken to mooing all day because she lost her calf. Before long, her neighbors are complaining about the sound, but Brynn doesn't feel any great warmth from them anyway. She and her neighbor Nancy Scors haven't been made to feel welcome in Middlebrook, Virginia, and they are not sure why. 

Nancy lives in an old church and she had planned to turn it into a farm shop so local artisans could sell their wares. Some of the towns people were solidly against changing anything, especially the church. When Nancy dies in a suspicious fire at the church, Brynn wonders who would have killed Nancy or was it an accident? 

As odd and somewhat threatening incidents begin to happen to Brynn, she fears she might have to give up her farm and her dream in fear for her life. Trying to solve some of her minor issues, Brynn befriends local vet Schuyler Rafferty who uses acupuncture to try to ease Petunia's depression. But as events keep escalating, Brynn decides she needs to solve Nancy's murder and discover who is trying to run her out of town. 

A terrific start to a new series. 

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Interview with Eileen Watkins

What is the title of your newest book?
Gone, Kitty, Gone. How many books have you published? I put out eight with my previous publisher,
Eileen Watkins
Amber Quill Press; this will be my fourth Cat Groomer Mystery with Kensington Publishing, so that’s twelve, total.

How did you develop your character and choose your location? 
The publisher suggested the idea of a cat groomer/amateur sleuth. Working from there, I decided to make her a young entrepreneur, which would give her the most freedom to customize her work day, physically handle the cats (she also boards them), and still have the energy to sleuth in her spare time. I like setting my books in my home state of New Jersey, because although it’s small it offers a wide variety of environments. I put Cassie and her shop in the northwestern part of the state, which edges toward Pennsylvania. That rural-but-diverse kind of area lends itself well to cozy mysteries. Wealthy people are building McMansions nearby, but it’s surrounded by small farms and wooded mountains with deserted iron mines. I felt that would help me to come up with a wide range of plots and suspects.

What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? 
I retired from a full-time newspaper job right around the time I signed up to do this series, and I adore being able to spend my “work day” on my novels, rather than always having to squeeze my fiction writing into my evening hours and weekends. I also do publicity for a local chapter of Sisters in Crime and for New Jersey’s annual Deadly Ink conference, so I’m kept pretty busy with mystery-writing activities. That’s very satisfying. What do you not enjoy? Certain aspects of the marketing. I do Facebook, but I ignore most other types of social media, because I feel they would constantly distract me and use up time I’d rather spent writing. I go to a certain number of conferences a year, where I enjoy meeting up with other writers and book professionals, and I cheerfully do panels and signings. But I will never be the type to hang out at the bar and schmooze until all hours—I didn’t like to even when I was younger.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know? 
I took on the series because I’m a major animal lover and have always had at least one cat, so I’d say that Cassie’s heart and soul are similar to mine. It was fun to transplant them into an attractive, energetic 27-year-old who’s carving out an interesting life for herself! I’ve come to realize that I’m also very curious—I’m always researching things online, and when I sense something odd going on with a friend I’m very tempted to get to the bottom of it, even if it’s really none of my business! Also, I’m a bit of an idealist and a crusader, prone to complain that something “just isn’t right.” I channel those traits into Cassie, and of course they get her into plenty of trouble.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? 
That eventually I would find a way to write something I enjoy, saying things I felt were important, and also reach a larger market. In my first eight books, I basically wrote what I wanted—mostly paranormal, some of it pretty dark—and got a lot of things off my chest. I got good reviews but, since the publisher was small, not much exposure. By the time an agent approached me about doing the cat groomer series, I was in a more positive place, reading a lot of cozy mysteries, and ready to do something more upbeat. Still, I enjoy clearing up misunderstandings about cat care and behavior, and calling attention to animal issues that many people aren’t aware of. Reviewers and other readers seem to like this, saying that they learn new things in each of my books. That makes me happy and satisfies my “crusader” side.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character? 
Off the top of my head, I can’t say, because I’m not that familiar with all the young actresses out there today. Once in awhile I see one who is the right physical type—longish brown hair with bangs, about five-six and slim—and has the right independent, energetic personality. I’ll think, “She would be a good Cassie!” But since I’m not seriously casting the role, I may not even catch the actress’s name. I will admit that I loosely based her hunky veterinarian boyfriend on actor David Giuntoli, because I was a huge Grimm fan—a very-early-30s version of him, though. (If you know this, you’ll understand why Cassie is always so nervous when any other woman shows an interest in Mark!)

Who is your favorite author? 
I can’t really answer that question, because I like so many for different reasons. My first big influence was Ira Levin. His books got me interested in writing “daylight” paranormal, but he considered himself primarily a mystery writer. Barbara Michaels was another who spanned both of those genres. In terms of contemporary writers of animal mysteries, I like Clea Simon’s Pru Marlowe books, because her character has a psychic connection with animals but in a very believable, non-cutesy and non-sentimental way.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career? 
If I couldn’t write at all, I probably would have tried to become a costume or a set designer, because I have a strong visual bent and those elements also help to tell the story in a play or a movie. If I had a little more physical courage, I might have been a horse trainer or a riding instructor, because I’ve never been able to stay away from—or off—horses for very long. As you can see, these career choices offer about the same prospects for fame and fortune as writing fiction! Practicality was never my strong suit…

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Death on Clare Island: A Star O'Brien Mystery

Star O'Brien is an American information broker who tries to solves mysteries using technology. But for all her ability, she still cannot find a trace of her mother who disappear when Star was six years old. In Death on Clare Island: A Star O'Brien Mystery by Martha Geaney, Star finds herself in County Mayo, Ireland, settling her late fiance's estate. One which she didn't know a thing about. 

After her fiance's death, Star discovers she is the owner of the French Hill cottage in Castlebar County Mayo. Thinking she might be able to learn more about her absent mother, she heads to County Mayo where she finds herself involved in an unexplained death.

Young Matthew Sumner had been working on the Abbey Restoration on Clare Island recreating the drawings and other art works belonging to the church.  When a cracked glass vial is found on Matthew's body and a trace of cocaine is found in his system, the Guardai write him off as a drug addict who got to close to the cliffs and tumbled down. Irate over this treatment of Matthew, Star remembers how 
the police were indifferent to her mother's disappearance. Bridget Sumner, Matthew's sister, begs Star to prove that Matthew wasn't a drug addict and find his killer.  She decides to find out what really happened to Matthew. 

While in Ireland she discovers, Dylan's aunt Georgina and several of his close friend who are determined to keep her in Ireland. Other than her business, she has no one back in the US and maybe staying in Ireland would be a good thing. She is torn and blocks that decision out of her mind as she investigates Matthew's death. 

When a second death occurs, Star knows her investigation is making headway, but needs to be sure she is not the third victim. 

The brooding cliffs and the wild sea set the atmosphere for a tense mystery. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Murder in the First Edition

It's nearly Christmas in Greyborne Harbor and Addie Greyborne is looking forward to the holidays and the special Charity Auction. In Murder in the First Edition by Lauren Elliott, Addie has donated a rare copy of  A Christmas Carol but there's a murder before a single item is auctioned. (Murder in the First Edition will be released by Kensington Publishers on September 24.)

The precious manuscript has been given to Teresa Lang the fundraising coordinator for the Hospital Foundation's auction. She has assured Addie that the book will be kept in a secure location until the auction, especially now that she believes the book could bring in at least thirty thousand dollars. 

When Jonathan Hemingway, Addie's almost father-in-law unexpectedly appears on the scene, Addie's mood sinks. Jonathan had an up and down relationship with David, Addie's now deceased fiance, and she has never trusted him. When he admits to having a lunch date with Teresa Lang, Addie worries about her priceless book. 

She decides to go to the hospital to check on the book, but finds no one in Teresa's office. As she starts down the stairs, she notices a crumpled body that turns out to be Teresa. Worst of all her Dickens book is missing from Teresa's office.

Naturally Addie leaps to accuse Jonathan because of his womanizing ways and his shadowy past. As the story unfolds, Addie learns there are other suspects and maybe Jonathan is as bad as she thinks. 

Addie soon looks past her prejudices and finds the murderer and the Dickens book in a  satisfying conclusion. 

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley

Friday, September 13, 2019

Stealing the Scream

CEO Percival Davenport decides to retire and finds himself wondering what to do with his life. In Stealing the Scream by Theodore Carter, Percival returns to his art history roots and dives into being an artist with both feet. (Stealing the Scream well be released by Run Amok on September 15.)

His painting lessons improve his technique and before long he is painting like a professional. Percival holds a show but the critics call his work good, but more the style of a copyist than and originalist. He decides to prove them wrong and hires someone to break into famous museums and hang his paintings in their galleries. He also begins his obsession with Edvard Munch's "The Scream".

Before long Percival’s paintings are hanging in the Met in New York, the Louvre in Paris and several other art museums without anyone wondering how they had been acquired.  It takes a diligent security guard at the Met to try to piece together what is going on. When he calls attention to the painting in the Met, the curator is so embarrassed, he offers Leonard, the guard, the painting.

Leonard has soon amassed a collection of Percival Davenport originals that had been hanging in various museums. Now he sets out to find the artist and discover what is really going on.

Stealing the Scream is an imaginative story of artists and their obsessions and without giving too much away, The Scream is actually stolen.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Flour in the Attic

Ivy Culpepper returns home to northern California after years of living in Texas. To supplement her photography income, she works in a wonderful sounding bakery called Yeast of Eden and reunites with her high school boyfriend. In Flour in the Attic by Winnie Archer, life seems good.

As Ivy gets used to being back around her friends, one of her friends is found dead at the beach of an apparent drowning. The police soon discover that Marisol Ruiz, a strong competitive swimmer, did not drown, but was murdered. 

Marisol's family cannot believe someone would murder her , and her husband begs Ivy to discover who committed the crime. David Ruiz was Marisol's second husband and some of her adult children were not too fond of him. In fact, Marisol's daughter Lisette is sure David killed her mother. 

As Ivy hears more about Marisol's days before her death, she
learns Marisol was having nightmares about her recently deceased father and a combination of other strange dreams. She also learns why Marisol divorced her first husband Johnny Morales, and it wasn't because of an affair. He is a compulsive gambler and she was worried he would gamble away their house. That puts him in the frame as a possible murderer.

As Ivy investigates, she uncovers a crime that would impact the entire community of Santa Sofia. A skillfully woven tale. 

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Interview with Barbara Barrett

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My newest entry in the Mah Jongg Mysteries series, Book 4, is Beware the East Wind. Each of the
Barbara Barrett
titles in this series includes a mah jongg term. In the game, there are four sets of tiles named after the winds, East, West, North and South.

I have also published 11 contemporary romance novels and two contemporary romance novellas.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
The series takes place in central Florida in the fictional town of Serendipity Springs. I live in central Florida half the year and after writing two contemporary romance series which take place in my home state of Iowa decided I’d like to write about my new home. This is where I learned how to play Mah Jongg when I first retired, just like my four protagonists.

What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy?
I like being able to create my own characters and my own story. As an indie author these days, I have
almost total control about subject matter, character development, number of books I write, when I release them and price.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
When I decided my series would feature four main characters, I wanted to make them alike in the sense they are all about the same age and are retired but also different in personality so that their unique talents mesh together to solve a murder. I went so far as to consult the DISC Personality Inventory, which describes four main types of personalities, and model each of my characters after one of those types: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness. I made two of them quite tall; since I’m not, I’ve always wanted to live in the head of someone who is. I made one short like me, because I can identify with the types of challenges faced by someone under average height. I make it a point to let my friends know that none of the characters is modeled after any one person; instead, they are an amalgamation of family, friends and acquaintances and my imagination.

How do you get yourself out of a writing rut?
Until I began a diet several months ago, my go to method for getting out of a writing rut was chocolate. That no longer being an option, I now switch to another activity or writing something else. Sometimes, when even those approaches don’t work, I reread the section of the manuscript that has me stumped or even return to the goal, motivation and conflict I’ve developed for the work and analyze which of them isn’t working.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
Sydney Bonner – Helen Mirren
Marianne Putnam – Dame Judi Dench
Micki Demetrius – Sigourney Weaver or Allison Janney
Katrina Faulkner – Mary Steenburgen with shorter hair

Who is your favorite author?
Of all time, Agatha Christie.
Those I admire: Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Janet Evanovich.
Those I’m reading currently: Susan Elia MacNeal, Sparkle Abbey, Mary Lee Ashford, Maria Geraci, Roxanne St. Claire and Jacqueline Winspear

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be
Ann Curry, to ask questions and keep discussion going when my well runs dry
Agatha Christie, to hopefully benefit from her genius in creating the cozy mystery
Lin Manuel Miranda, hoping some of that creativity will be catching
Erma Bombeck, to keep us laughing
Carla Hall, to help prepare the meal

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
Interior design, HGTV personality

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Mumbo Gumbo Murder

Every time Carmela gets involved in a murder in New Orleans, she promises her detective fiance Edgar Babcock this will be the last time she will meddle. In Mumbo Gumbo Murder by Laura Childs and Terrie Farley Moran, the murder victim practically lands at Carmela's feet and it is her friend antique dealer Devon Dowling. (Mumbo Gumbo Murder will be released by Berkley/Penguin Random House on October 1.)

When the plate glass window of Devon's shop is shattered and Carmela manages to get inside the shop, a shower of bright sparks explodes in front of her. As the smoke clears, she finds Devon's body in a pool of blood. Shocked by the brutality of the murder, Carmela and Ava cannot step aside. 

There are all kinds of suspects including Devon's new assistant, the highly nervous TJ - Trevor Jackson. Also, based on the fragments of priceless Chinese vases and other items smashed to bits on the floor, Carmela thinks it might have been a robbery gone bad. 

As soon as Babcock arrives, he is ready to banish Carmela and Ava from the site, but he listens as she explains what she saw and heard. Chairs, tables and priceless antiques were strewn around the shop as if there had been a fight. Devon's little dog Mimi was huddled in the back room barking wildly.

But Carmela raises Edgar's ire even more by "partnering" with Quigg Brevard in a Wine and Paint shop. Even though Carmela is engaged to Babcock, he still sees red whenever Quigg is around. 

As usual Carmela and Ava cannot rest until they track down the killer. They put themselves in jeopardy several times before they finally solve the case. 

Another exciting caper through New Orleans's French Quarter and beyond.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley

Monday, September 9, 2019

Fiddling with Fate

Saddened by her mother's untimely death and fully aware of the less-than-close relationship she had with her, Chloe Ellfeson is determined to learn about her mother's adoption and her true heritage. In Fiddling With Fate by Kathleen Ernst  Chloe discovers some antique embroidery pieces hidden in her mother's closet.

These lead her to accept a consulting job in Norway that enables her to research her mother's adoption and the priceless heirlooms as well as the music and dances of Norway. She convinces her fiance Roelke Mc Kenna to go along with her and soon they are on their way to the Hardanger area of Norway.

She's thrilled to be learning about the importance of fiddle music and dancing in Norwegian tradition, but folklore says the fiddle is "the devil's instrument."

The historical background in this book is told through two eras: Chloe's timeline, 1984 and the historical period from 1854 on. This technique lets the author reveal historical connections without using the main character. 

As Chloe researches, she discovers the embroidered pieces she has were typical of the region and were passed down from generation to generation. Wanting to keep them secure, she asks the innkeeper at the historic Utne Hotel to place them in the hotel's safe. Within a day, they are discovered missing. 

Broken hearted, Chloe now sets out in earnest to discover the connection between the embroidery, her mother and her adoption. When someone is murdered, Roelke worries they have placed themselves in an untenable situation.

This is an outstanding series and I love the two eras technique of unfolding the story. 

Disclosure: I received this book from the author. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Pearl Dagger

Lane Sanders and her fiery boss Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia are chasing the syndicate running pinball machines in New York. In The Pearl Dagger by L.A. Chandlar, Lane and the Mayor soon discover their old nemesis.

Before they leave New York, tragedy strikes. While Lane and Mayor LaGuardia are on the scene of a pinball raid, someone fires shots at the police and her friend Peter is killed. Lane realizes the attacks are aimed, not only at the Mayor, but at the police as well. Now more than before, Lane needs to make contact with The Red Scroll Network.

The Red Scroll, is trying to expand its reach. Branching out into Europe, its leader Daphne Franco, baits Lane and Finn into coming to London.  Little do they know what she has in store for them. 

Once they arrive in London, Finn sets out to locate his
disgruntled brother Sean and his wife Gwen. Having been estranged and unjustly accused of a crime, Finn is reluctant to meet with them, but Lane hopes to smooth over the estrangement, by meeting with Finn's grandmother Viv. What she learns from Viv makes her anxious for Finn and she rushes to his aid.

Back in New York, Lane enlists of the assistance of her reporter friend Roarke to track down Daphne who has given them the slip in London. A high stakes game of cat and mouse keeps Lane and Finn grasping in the dark to find Daphne and protect Mayor LaGuardia. 

Another exciting chase in this lively Art Deco series. 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

And Then There Were Crumbs

What does a New York pastry chef do when she loses her job, her apartment and calls off her wedding? In And Then There Were Crumbs by Eve Calder, Kate McGuire travels south to a small island town trying to straighten out her life. (And Then There Were Crumbs is published by St. Martin's Paperbacks.) 

After pounding the pavement of Coral Cay for a week and finding no job, she is about to give up when her car breaks down, Nothing like adding more distress to her already distressed situation, but the mechanic who helps her recommends a bakery in town called The Cookie House. There is a cranky owner, low pay and worse yet, no cakes, cookies or pastries in sight. What's a girl to do?

Sam Hepplewhite, the curmudgeonly owner, doesn't want her to do anything but wait on the customers and cleaning up. No baking of any kind - no cookies, pastries, nothing. He will continue to bake the best sourdough bread and his other breads, but as far as he is concerned, the kitchen is off limits to Kate.

Figuring she has nothing better to do, she takes the job and convinces Sam to let her convert the upstairs storeroom into a bedroom for her. But Kate has a special talent, she can tell the type of cookie a person loves just by looking at them. A great talent wasted when she cannot bake cookies.

Things are proceeding smoothly until slimy real estate developer Stewart Lord saunters into the shop and threatens to buy the shop out from under Sam. The greedy developer eyes a pan of cinnamon rolls Sam had made for himself and demands Sam sell them to him. Sam does just to get rid of Stewart.

When Stewart ends up dead the next day, all eyes turn to Sam and his cinnamon rolls. Sam is arrested, but Kate knows he would never kill anyone and she is sure Stewart had more than Sam as an enemy. As she digs deeper, she discovers Stewart wasn't above a little blackmail to try to expand his empire. Kate uses her talent for sniffing out clues to solve the case.

A very cute new series with loads of potential. A likable pastry chef with a terrific cast of characters.

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

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Interview with Patricia Skalka

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
Death by the Bay is the fifth and most recent book in the Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery series.
Patricia Skalka
The first four in order are: Death Stalks Door County, Death at Gills Rock, Death in Cold Water (winner of the Edna Ferber Literary Book Award), and Death Rides the Ferry (winner of the Midwest Book Award in the Mystery/Thriller category).

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
Door County itself was the inspiration for the series. For those unfamiliar with the area, Door County is a peninsula in northeast Wisconsin that juts out between the waters of Lake Michigan and the bay of Green Bay. The peninsula has some 300 miles of shoreland. Known as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” it is a mecca for artists and tourists.

Several years back I was sitting on one of the peninsula’s many beaches on a stunning sunny day and then again that same starless night in inky blackness. The difference was startling and prompted me to start thinking about the contrast between light and dark, good and evil. That’s when I realized Door County provided the perfect setting for a mystery: one in which there’d be a picture-perfect setting with sinister forces at work beneath the surface. This was the idea behind the very first book Death Stalks Door County.

The story revolves around a series of murders that are eventually linked to past events. For the plot to work, I needed a protagonist who was an outsider, someone who was unfamiliar with the locals and their shared histories and who was unaware of the old, unresolved grudges and misdeeds that continued to haunt them. As I worked on developing the sinister forces that drove the story, this character named Dave Cubiak slowly materialized on the sidelines. Eventually, I realized that he was the one capable of outwitting the killer.

Initially I intended to write the book as a stand-alone mystery, but as I worked on the manuscript more plot lines presented themselves and I knew that I had the start of a series. Now here I am working on book six.

What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy?
There’s lots to like about the author’s lifestyle: the independence, the exhilaration of creating something from nothing; the satisfaction of seeing my work in print and hearing from people who enjoy or are touched in some way by the characters and their struggles; and the opportunity to mix with other top-notch writers. I treasure every one of those aspects of being an author. At the same time, it’s an isolated life. I have to make a conscious effort to get out and stay connected with colleagues and friends.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
My protagonist is a man, so he’s definitely not modeled after me! In some aspects Cubiak is an amalgam of several men, including my wonderful late husband, who have been influential in my life, but in most ways he’s a fictional character who lives only in my imagination and on the pages of my books.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I’d have told my younger self to start earlier. Until recently my professional life was spent as a nonfiction writer. During all that time, I dreamed of being a novelist. Looking back, I wish someone had said: Go for it, just jump in, no matter what else you’re doing.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
I picture Dave Cubiak as a younger Harrison Ford. But who would that be in today’s world? Readers have suggested both John Cusack and Ryan Gosling as potential Cubiaks. I’d be delighted with either, but I suspect that when the books are made into movies or a mini-series the lead will be played by a terrific unknown actor who’ll make the role his own.

Who is your favorite author?
I don’t have one favorite author, I have several. Among contemporary writers: William Kent Krueger, Donna Tartt, Kate Atkinson, Alan Furst, Sigrid Nunez, and Jane Hamilton. Among the legendary writers: Dorothy L. Sayers, Kent Haruf, Raymond Chandler, and Daphne De Maurier.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Albert Einstein, for the opportunity to glimpse how his mind worked. The same for Leonardo Da Vinci. Cleopatra, because she was a powerful woman operating in a man’s world, not unlike the way things are today. Dame Agatha Christie, the best-selling novelist of all time who surely could provide insight into human character and behavior. And, finally, Stephen Colbert to serve as host, so I could sit back and enjoy the conversation while sipping champagne and pinching myself to make sure it was real.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
That’s a tough question. If I could wave a magic wand and eliminate my inner ear imbalance and vertigo, I’d be an astronaut. Imagine the thrill of moving through space and seeing the tiny blue globe of the earth suspended in the vastness of the universe. How marvelous would that be!

On a more realistic level, I’d opt for being a trial lawyer.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Hemlock Needle

Alaska lawyer Maeve Malloy finds herself in trouble again as she faces a disbarment hearing. It stems from a case in the previous book and causes huge concern for her. In Hemlock Needle by Keenan Powell,  a friend asks Maeve to find her missing daughter. 

Esther Fancyboy walked out of a party during a blizzard and disappeared. Maeve and the boy's grandmother know Esther would never leave her son, Evan, so Maeve is positive something bad happened to her.  The police seem uninterested, treating it as another party girl getting herself in trouble, but Esther was a conscientious mother and a hard worker. 

When Maeve is called into her mentor Arthur Nelson's office, she is stunned to learn she is being accused of negligence in her previous case. She is also being sued for malpractice by the spouse of someone killed because of the outcome of the case. Maeve is devastated because she has worked so hard to overcome her alcoholism and prove she is worthy of Nelson's belief in her. 

Pushing her own issues to the back burner, Maeve sets out on the trail to find Esther. She starts with Esther's work place Neqa, a cooperative of villages in western Alaska, where she meets CEO Xander George. He says Esther worked for Turner International, a sister company. He insists Esther anazlyzed data for a water system project the companies were working on, but he claims he doesn't really know her that well.  Annoyed by the brush off, Maeve doubles down on the feeling something is fishy about Xander, Neqa and Turner International. 

When Esther's body is found frozen in the snow several days after she disappeared, Maeve's investigation leads her to fraud, deceptive business practices, a murderer and much more. An excellent look at life in Alaska.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher. 

Monday, September 2, 2019

Where I'm From - a Poem of Remembering

Where I'm From: A Morning Edition Crowdsourced Poem of Remembering

This poem was heard on Morning Edition on NPR and will be a continuing segment featuring Kwame Alexander and Morning Edition host Rachel Martin.

The poems draw on all five senses with vivid detail and gauzy memories. They are only between 5-10 lines. On MapYourMystery blog, I will publish the first 10 poems posted in the comments.No prize. Just do it for the fun of it.

I am from travelers and adventure
from "Be seen, not heard!"
from ritual and plainsong
from England and exile
from mint sauce and lamb.

I am from casseroles and canned tuna
Kennedys and Saturday morning cartoons
I am from Tang in a Daffy Duck glass
from wall phones with mangled cords stretched during private calls in a room too far
I come from popcorn ceilings
dining rooms of glossy mahogany

I am from bed sheets
Draped over our dining room chairs.
from the trees Littering the backyard
The sweet taste of mulberries Staining my fingers red
I'm from big hats under rainbow umbrellas
Buckets of wet sand and unstable castles
I'm from orange and vanilla custard
with a pizza slice the size of your chest
From hot July days and cool summer nights
I am from Sunday night pizza and Monday Night Football

I am from marbles
From empanadas cooking in the street
I am from orchids and mango trees
I am from la torta tres leches and ruana
I am from happy and serious
From hard work and sweat

I'm from grit, respect, and discipline.
from big family reunions and endless laughs.
I am from houses never locked
from the projects in Brooklyn
and dominoes in the park
I am from salsa and the car horns blaring

I am from diners and malls and accents that put an "aw" in coffee.
from silky lingerie and sweat socks, bruised knuckles and scars I gave myself
from longing to be someone, somewhere else.
I am from a mother who was still a girl;
whose beauty kept her shy
I am from dirt and fences
from strength and toughness

I am from ashes flicked into the tray
the despair of divorce
bonds gone unappreciated
eviction and being thrown away
running and begging to stay
I am from a little girl who just needed a break

I am from a time when my mother went to the hospital and never came back;
when my toys were in a box by the curb as we drove away.
I am from singing in the darkness of night
Putting myself to sleep with the sound of my own voice.

I am from playing backyard baseball with tennis balls, Wiffle balls, even roundish gourds.
from weekend sleep-overs
from orange push-ups
from fallen leaves kicked up in swirls on walks to school,
from early morning radio announcements of a snow day — no school!

I am from the South and the North.
from immigrant grandparents and Civil War soldiers.
I am from the red dirt clay of Virginia
From the sounds of the fiddle to the beauty of a choir
From the jig and the reel
to the cloggers and the dancers.
From collard greens and fat back,
chitterlings and white bread
I'm from hymns learned on Sundays,
hypocrisy displayed on Mondays.

I am from Tom Petty
and baby oil in the hot sun
rye bread and salami.
I am from black cows,
tacos, bicycles, and
The gentle lure of crickets.

I am from James Brown and Santana.
from Groovin' on a Sunday Afternoon
and Crystal Blue Persuasion.

I am from endless steps,
from California and Texas, and Durango, Colorado.
From unknown ancestors of the ancient Southwest,
cliff-dwellers and puebloans.
I am from the earth --

from from cityscapes and sleepy suburbs
from cicada clicks and firefly sparks
from the call of books and breathing through struggles.
I am from you

and you are from me
We are love

We are home
We are from this day forward.