Thursday, October 31, 2019

Interview with Gwen Mayo and Sarah E. Glenn

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
Our newest novel together is Murder at the Million Dollar Pier.

Sarah E. Glenn and Gwen Mayo
As Mystery and Horror, LLC, we've published over twenty books. We produced several anthologies before we tried publishing novels. It's still a learning process; I actually have a degree in journalism, but we trained on typewriters, not computers.

How do two authors write one book? Tell me about your process.
We do have our challenges. Gwen is plot-oriented, while I am a true pantser (I prefer to call it 'organic writing'). We rely on a shared plotline, with the agreement that any deviations from said plotline will be promptly logged. One of us has a talent for shooting plans in the head.

We toss ideas--and the manuscript--back and forth. Gwen writes for a while, and then I do. Each of us goes over the update and adds depth and detail to the new material. It requires a lot of trust and an ability to put ego aside to write together, but we have a great synergy.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
Sarah: The ladies were inspired by my great-great-aunt Dess, who served as a nurse during WWI.
Afterward, she traveled extensively, like our characters, although I don't think she visited speakeasies.

Gwen: I created Professor Pettijohn for her Nessa Donnelly series, and we poached him. The best theft I ever committed: he makes a wonderful counterpoint to the nurses.

We chose to set the stories during the 1920s land boom in Florida because the locations were still largely unspoiled, but greed and skullduggery were at their peak. The state was full of dreamers, opportunists, and gangsters--an endless source of good stories in beautiful locations.

For a review of Murder on the Million Dollar Pier click here.

What books did you read as a child?
Sarah: I grew up surrounded by books; my father sold educational materials. I plowed through his inventory (personal and professional), the entire Black Stallion series, and an inordinate number of comic books. I was voted most likely to be a librarian in school, but I'm closer to owning one.

Gwen: I grew up in a town without a bookstore or library. The local grocery store had a bookshelf, where she spent her lunch money on Little Women, Zane Grey, Huck Finn, and, later, Agatha Christie.

What drew you to writing?
Sarah: I began writing as a way to enter the worlds I loved, becoming possibly the only person to write Black Stallion fanfic.

Gwen: I began by making up stories to entertain her little sister, mostly about a tiny boy who lived in a coconut shell on a tropical island. Eventually, I had to write them down because my sister wanted to hear the same ones over and over.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Sarah: Stop trying to write what you think the story is about, and let the characters tell you what they are doing.

Gwen: To keep people from throwing away the stories I wrote when I was a child.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
We visit the locations if they still exist. The current book gave us a great excuse (like we needed one) to visit the Vinoy, the nearby park, and the bar on the site of the original Gangplank, where we sampled drinks. When we wrote our first Snowbirds novel, we drove to Citrus County to do a trial run of the car chase on the Homosassa roads, seeing where each turn took us. The view at one of the spots sparked the idea for a crucial moment in the plot.

Other avenues of research: I enjoy finding "current events" on, and Gwen relies on texts like Cigar City Mafia and photographs from historical archives.

Who is your favorite author?
Sarah: I have many favorites, depending on genre, but I lean towards Stephen King at the moment. 

Gwen: My favorite is Agatha Christie. We both enjoy Anne Perry and Louise Penny.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
I'd really love to see my father and his parents again. If I need to add a couple of famous people, I'll add Benjamin Franklin, Hypatia of Alexandria, and a translator for Hypatia (it's been a long time since I took ancient Greek).

If you could not be an author, what would you like to do as a career?
I'd love to be a comic book artist. I could identify most of Marvel's artists on sight during my teens, and I used to draw my own X-Men stories. Ka-blam!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Cast Iron Alibi

After reading Cast Iron Alibi by Victoria Hamilton, I know why Eleanor Roosevelt said "Fish and house guest start to smell after three days." (Cast Iron Alibi will be released by Beyond the Page Publishing on November 5.)

Jaymie Leighton Muller has invited several of her college friends to her family's summer cottage on Heartbreak Island between Michigan and Ontario. The reunion of sorts had been an annual event until life intruded and the gatherings became fewer and fewer. 

Jaymie has high hopes that the absence would make them eager to see each other. Nothing could be further from the truth. One brings and uninvited friend and there is constant sniping at each other. Before long, someone is murdered, but it isn't one of the college friends, it's a local. 

An over-amorous handyman with a pregnant girlfriend half his age has been found murdered in his cabin, which by the way has been set on fire. Although the police think Mario's best friend Kory is the murderer, with this group, there are many suspects.

There's man-crazy Brandi who spends most of her time on hook-up apps even though she is married. Who may or may not have hooked up with Mario. Oh and she is the one who brought the new friend. Then there's romance author Melody Heath who swears her husband is stalking her at Heartbreak Island. Gabriela laments having to leave her husband and daughter and is constantly checking her phone in hopes of hearing news from home. And Rachel who after tasting the buttery goodness of Tansy's Tarts, volunteers to help out at the shop when the owner is short handed. 

Jaymie's uneasy relationship with Detective Vestry makes her leery about interfering in the case, but as she discovers more clues, she feels she needs to intercede. A twisty path leads Jaymie to uncover the murderer. 

As much as I enjoyed Cast Iron Alibi, there were too many characters for my taste. I did not see the need to reintroduce all the locals again as most of them just passed through the story and the central focus was the reunion group. Just sayin'.. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Widow of Rose House

It's 1875 and Mrs. Alva Webster has headed back to New York after living in France for many years. In The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller, Alva Webster has fled France after the murder of her estranged husband in the hopes of dousing the untrue rumors splashed across the French newspapers and exported to the US.

She's the New York high society daughter of the Rensselaer family, but they wanted no part of her before she left and refuse to even see her now on her return. To find her own life, she purchases a dilapidated house called Liefdehuis with plans to remodel and decorate it to appeal to middle class, will documenting her work in a book. Before long she discovers the house is haunted by many ghosts and no one wants to work in it.

When the charmingly eccentric scientist Samuel Moore meets Alva at her hotel and learns about the ghosts haunted her house, he is eager to become involved. He hopes to test the technology he has been working on to determine who the ghosts are and how to rid the house of them. Alva doesn't believe there are ghosts inhabiting her house, but when the contractor she hires and his staff refuse to go back to the house, she agrees to allow Sam to experiment. 

Before she knows it, she has been plunged into the middle of a ghastly nightmare finding herself haunted as well. While researching the house and the families that lived their Alva and Sam discover the tragic secrets hidden in the house. 

 The Widow of Rose House is part Gothic mystery, part Glided Age  and wildely entertaining. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Coming Up Murder

The latest college semester is nearing an end and Professor Emmeline Prather is looking forward to the summer off. She has completed her book Words of Their Own, but is struggling to find a publisher. In Coming Up Murder by Mary Angela, Emmeline's life has taken an upswing. Her relationship with Lenny seems to be moving ahead and her students have been interested in her classes. (Coming Up Murder will be released by Camel Press Books on November 12.)

The Shakespearean Festival caps off the semester and it is about to begin. The college has been fortunate to have a visiting copy of the First Folio, a collection of Shakespeare's plays that might have been lost if it were not for his friends. It's quite the honor to have the First Folio at the event. But at one of the first sessions, graduate student Tanner Sparks contends Shakespeare didn't write the plays. As there are Shakespeare scholars at the event, you can image the outrage. Tanner believes the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere was the actual author and he claims he has DNA to prove it. 

When Tanner is found dead the next morning poised on a bench in the maze with liquid dripping from his ear, it is a very Shakespearean moment. As much as Em wold like to stay out of the investigation, her department chair, instead of discouraging her, encourages her to investigate. 

This is a delightful series and Em Prather and her cohorts are entertaining and engaging characters. And this time there is some action in the glacial relationship between Em and Lenny. Yay

Disclosure: I received this book from the author.

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Body on the Train

It's not every day a body is found in a train car of rhubarb. In The Body on the Train by Frances Brody, Kate Shackleton is asked by Scotland Yard to use her local Yorkshire knowledge to identify the dead man. (The Body on the Train will be released by Crooked Lane Books on November 12.)

All means of identification have been stripped from the man as he has been found only wearing his underclothes. Someone went to great lengths to keep his identify unknown, and Scotland Yard thinks Kate can discover his identity.

It's 1929 and there is increasing unrest in Yorkshire in the coalfields, especially after a lengthy strike by coal miners and railway workers. Conflicting interests of coalfields and agriculture seem to be leading in the direction of more unrest. 

In the sack where the victim was found were two potatoes and two gold coins - two spade shields George III guineas. The potatoes suggested a region, but the coins were perplexing. Were the Russian Bolsheviks at work again, fomenting a revolution in England?

Kate's investigation of the body reveals calluses on his thumb and fingers and swelling in the knee and elbow leading her to think the dead man might be a golfer. Also Kate learns about the murder of a shop keeper in the area, and she ties it into the case with her murdered man. 

Untangling the complex threads, Kate learns someone she knows is deeply involved in activities that would not benefit the community. 

Another superior puzzle by Frances Brody with all the threads woven into a wonderfully entertaining plot. 

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Marked for Revenge: An Art Heist Thriller

Zelda Richardson has finally found a position with an art museum. She is a collections assistant for the Amstel Modern  in Amsterdam, but before she can adjust to a paying job, the museum is robbed of some of the American Modernist sketches and drawings. In Marked for Revenge: An Art Heist Thriller by Jennifer S. Alderson, the Amstel Modern is one of 15 museums robbed over a period of several weeks.  

A large clue is that all the stolen art is easily forged. Zelda stumbles on a Jackson Pollack sketch in her neighbor's apartment, and she is suddenly thrust into the high stakes world of forgeries and international gangs of art thieves. 

When Zelda finds her next door neighbor and artist Gabriella semi-conscious on the floor of her apartment, she knows Gabriella needs insulin and tries to help her. Before she knows it, someone strikes Zelda on the head and leaves her unconscious on the apartment floor. Days later she discovers Gabriella is missing and her apartment has been cleared out.

Zelda wakes up in a hospital, suffering a severe concussion and partial loss of memory. Although she recalls seeing the Pollack and a copy on an easel, the doctors believe these might be false memories caused by the concussion. The police are leery of her statement and even consider she might be part of the theft ring.

The thieves are a bold lot. They break in and escape using ingenious methods including paragliding and they leave behind a note that chastises the museums for their lack of security and they sign the notes Robber Hood. They imply they will return the works of art once the museums beef up their security. Not everyone believes this.

With the police looking suspiciously at Zelda and a known Croatian gangster threatening her, she teams up with art detective Vincent de Graaf on a mad dash through Luxembourg, Italy and Turkey to find the stolen art. 

Another fast paced mystery featuring intrepid Zelda Richardson.

For a review of Zelda's first adventure The Lover's Portrait, click here

Disclosure: I received this book from the author. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Interview with Holly Quinn

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
A Crafter Hooks a Killer released June 11th. The 3rd in the Handcrafted Mystery series: A Crafter
Quilts a Crime releases Feb 11, 2020. There are 3 books thus far in this series. I’ve published 2 standalones under another name.

Holly Quinn
How did you develop your character and choose your location?
I’m a “panster” meaning a write from the seat of my pants. The characters develop as their personalities show up on the page. The location of Heartsford is a fictional location based on a real town named Hartford, WI. *Most small Midwest towns are similar.

What books did you read as a child?
Dr. Seuss and Nancy Drew anything with a mystery

What drew you to writing?
I have a very inquisitive mind and drove my parents batty as a child with too many questions. I love a good mystery plot and people fascinate me.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Be patient. Good things come to those who wait and master their craft.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book.
A good writer is told to write what they know. I’m a jack of trades, master of none. So, I have a lot to pull from. I do a lot of Googling as I write if I have questions about something. I also participated in a citizen police academy program.

Who is your favorite author?
Every interviewer asks this question and it’s one I refuse to answer. There are far too many good writers out there! *

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Agatha Christie, John Grisham, Nick Sparks, Liane Moriarty, and Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t that be a party?!
 * maybe I just gave away a few of my favorite writers?

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
Actually, I paint glass and sell locally during the holidays. Despite being traditionally published, writing doesn’t yet pay the bills…

For a review of A Crafter Hooks a Killer, click here.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Murder on Trinity Place

Having just returned from a trip to New York City and visiting Trinity Church, Murder on Trinity Place by Victoria Thompson became all the more real to me.

It is 1899 and the city is readying itself for the year to turn to 1900. Frank and Sarah Malloy are preparing to go to Trinity Church to hear the bells ring in the New Year. When they arrive, they notice Mr. Pritchard, a relative of their neighbor Mrs. Ellsworth wandering through the crowd and acting strangely. They know from past experience that Pritchard is trying to convince the masses that the new century begins next year in 1901, not 1900. No one is interested in his theory and many push him aside. 

Frank tries to catch up with him and drive him home, but he loses him in the crowd. The next day Pritchard is discovered dead and shoved in the bushes on the grounds of Trinity Church. The police aren't interested in solving the murder, so Frank and Sarah are hired by Pritchard's daughter Theda to discover who killed her father and why.

Pritchard had been the owner of a successful dairy in New York delivering pasteurized milk throughout the city. Frank wonders if he had enemies, but no one is mentioned. There had been obvious tension with his son Harvey. Harvey, recently expelled from college for gambling, seems to have fallen back into his old habits. 

As Frank digs deeper her realizes there must be some connection between the gambling debts and the local gangsters who collect them. The more he digs, the messier the Pritchard relationships become. 

Rich New York detail and clever characters make the Gaslight Mystery series a pleasure to read. 

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Angel's Share

The last two books I read had plots featuring Shakespeare and the First Folio. I had the fortune to see The First Folio when it was displayed at a local museum and it was pretty amazing.

In The Angel's Share by Ellen Crosby, Lucie Montgomery is asked by her billionaire neighbor Prescott Avery to join him in his wine cellar for a glass of the rare Malmsey Madeira. They leave the ongoing holiday party in his house and wind up in his newly remodeled, spectacular vault in the cellar. (The Angel's Share will be released by Minotaur Books on November 5.)

Surprising her, Prescott asks Lucie if he can purchase the Madeira her great uncle Ian brought back to Virginia in the 1920s. Stunned by his request Lucie confesses she knows nothing about it. Prescott claims the Madeira bottles dates back to 1809, and were going to be used by James Madison to celebrate the 4th of July.

It's Prescott's plan to reveal something he discovered connected to Shakespeare and his plays, and toast the findings with his Mason brothers. He reveals a hand written copy of the Declaration of Independence given to James Madison by his friend Thomas Jefferson.

He swears her to secrecy and she finally convinces him she knows nothing about the over 300-year-
old Madeira. Her father Leland was a gamble and a risk taker, and she is sure he squandered the Madeira to pay debts. She's stunned when he asks her about Leland's second safe deposit box. He also implies he has discovered a secret to a long lost mystery, but he declines to tell her what it is. Lucie flees from the cellar and rushes to find her fiance Quinn. She also discovers she left her phone in Prescott's value and returns to retrieve it.

What she finds shocks her - Prescott's dead body crumpled on the floor with a decanter of his precious Madeira leaking on to the carpet. Everyone wants to believe he tripped and fell, especially as he is 95 years old, but eventually the police believe it was murder.

There are plenty of suspects especially as all is not well in the Avery household. Prescott was planning to sell some of his newspaper empire including the flagship Washington Tribune. He also planned to donate most of his art and treasure to the Caritas Commitment. His grandson and granddaughter are at each others throats at the newspaper and some of his other relatives are worried about his donation concept.

Lucie, bewildered by more treachery from her late father, embarks on a quest to find the Madeira and uncover the clue Prescott Avery was sure her father had. This leads her through Jamestown, Williamsburg, to a rumor about Shakespeare and Sir Francis Bacon, to the Folger Shakespeare Library (and the First Folio) and to the origins of the U.S government.

Sounds like National Treasure, but it's a much better story. Another exceptional story by Ellen Crosby.

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

Friday, October 18, 2019

Murder on the Million Dollar Pier

It's 1926 and Saint Petersburg, Florida, is booming with new homes, new restaurants, new resorts and a million dollar pier. In Murder at the Million Dollar Pier by Gwen Mayo and Sarah E. Glenn, Cornelia Pettijohn and her uncle Percival are joined by Teddy Lawless on a visit to the Sunshine State. 

Uncle Percival's obsession with engineering has led them to the construction site known as the Million Dollar Pier. They decide to stay at the luxurious Vinoy Hotel overlooking the Bay so Uncle Percival can observe and film the construction. But trouble seems to follow the trio as they encounter Teddy's former fiance Ansel Stevens

Thirty years of pent up animosity towards the abusive Stevens manifests itself in a hard slap across his face by Teddy, then as he manhandles anther woman, a kick to the Achilles heel. Everyone is agog, but Teddy returns to her table to finish her dinner. 

Once back in the room, Cornelia finagles the story from Teddy. Turns out she was engaged to Stevens when she was 17, but when she asked to be part of the decision making, he started to beat her. When her parents insisted she marry him anyway, Teddy fled to her grandmother's house in New York. Stevens spread the rumor that Teddy was pregnant with another man's baby and ruined her reputation and that of her family. No surprise she felt the need to slap him. 

But days later when Stevens dies from nicotine poisoning during a boat race and Teddy's hair comb is found on board, she is arrested. Cornelia and Percival are determined to clear her, but Stevens' daughter Evelyn is just as determined to convict Teddy. 

The intrepid Percival and the diligent Cornelia work to find evidence to clear Teddy. A riotous adventure featuring three gutsy characters. 

Disclosure: I received this book from the authors. 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Christmas Cocoa Murder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Interview with Stephen Clark

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

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

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

For a review of Hands Up, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Crafter Hooks a Killer

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 14, 2019

Death in a Desert Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 11, 2019

Lattes and Lies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: I received this book from the author.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Murder in Black Tie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: I received this book from the author.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Interview with Melissa Ramirez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Beware the East Wind

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: I received this book from the author. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Bodies in the Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 4, 2019

Hands Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: I received this book from the author.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Something Borrowed, Something Mewed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher.