Monday, February 27, 2017

Murder at the Seaside

Libby Forest just wants to finish her book about celebration cakes with tons of photo. What she gets instead is a dead body on the beach near Exham Lighthouse.

In Murder at the Lighthouse, Frances Eversham introduces her sleuth. Libby soon discovers everyone knows the victim, Susie Bennett, hometown girl who left for America and became the lead singer in a multi-million dollar rock group called Angel's Kiss. Susie hasn't been back to Exham in 20 years. Why now and what led to her death? Was it suicide? Libby is itching to know, but no one else in the town seems to care, except Mrs. Thomson.

After a chance encounter with Max Ramshore, the father of Det. Sgt. Joe Ramshore, Libby discovers he went to school with Susie. He also reveals he worked at a bank in Bath where Susie had a substantial bank account. Libby wonders who Susie's heirs might be while Max jets off to the States to research the subject. 

In the meantime Libby has her hands full with possible domestic abuse at the home of her teenage Goth employee Mandy. Libby offers her spare room to Mandy and her mother thinking they will not use it, but to her surprise they do. Which only angers Mandy's father.

When Mrs.Thomson dies from a fall, Libby wonders if it was because she revealed information about Susie and the death of her young child. Did Susie kill herself because of grief for her daughter or was Susie's drowning a coincidence? Is the father of Annie Rose the key to Susie's death?

I enjoyed this book as it has all the elements of an Agatha Christie cozy mystery (except for the Belgian detective).

Find other books by Frances Evesham by clicking here.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Musical Troubles

In Treble at the Jam Fest by Leslie Budewitz, Erin Murphy's Merc is once again stocked with delicious items. I want this store in my town or at least to have the ability to order online. Fresca's Italian sauces make my mouth water and Tracy's chocolates cause me to gain 10 lbs while I am reading the books.

But the trouble begins when Erin hears an argument between two musicians performing at the annual Jazz Festival and Workshop in Jewel Bay, Montana. Gerry Martin and Dave Barber have long been rivals, but their argument seems more personal.

When Gerry Martin is found dead on some rocks along the Jewel River, no one really thinks it was suicide, especially as Erin's boyfriend Adam and his friend Tanner witnessed the fall. It appears Gerry was arguing with someone and was pushed off the cliff. Neither Adam nor Tanner could identify the pusher.

Although Erin's past experiences in solving murders has been dangerous for her, she cannot resist getting involved. Gerry had been the headliner at the Jazz Festival, but his act had been wearing thin for many people. Now, new performer Gabrielle Drake has taken the Festival by storm. Pushed by her parents Grant and Ann Drake, Erin wonders how pushy they really are. Are they the type to kill someone who stands in their daughter's way? What about some of the other performers?

To complicate matters Tanner reveals he is ill again and has made Adam a partner in his business in Minnesota. If anything happens to Tanner, it seems Adam might have to leave Montana to run the company. Erin doesn't know how she feels about Adam maybe having to leave, but she knows he is loyal to his friend.

Putting her concerns about Adam and Tanner aside, Erin is determined to solve the murder, which puts her into jeopardy once again.

For the first book in the Food Lovers' Village mysteries click here.

For the Spice Shop series, click here.

For other books by Leslie Budewitz, click here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Carolyn Haines Interview

Interview with Carolyn Haines 

How many books have you published?
I haven't counted in a while, but more than 70 in a number of genres from general fiction, nonfiction, short fiction, mysteries, horror, romantic mysteries to crime novels.

Under what names do you publish?
When I first started publishing, it was in romantic mysteries. I used Caroline Burnes as my name. As those titles are returned to me, I will re-release them under my name. I'm working to move all of my books under one name. When I started publishing general fiction and mysteries, I used my legal name, Carolyn Haines. And when I published some darker, supernatural books, I used R.B. Chesterton. My thoughts were that the different names would signal to the readers that it was a different kind of story. I just don't think that's necessary now. So in the future, you'll see Carolyn Haines.

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, etc?
Each day is different for me because I also run an animal refuge, Good Fortune Farm Refuge, a 501c3 non-profit. I have about 20 animals--cats, dogs, and horses. So their needs come first. Veterinarian appointments, walks, whatever. And a lot of that depends on the season. When it's cold, I love writing in the mornings (after I feed) and wait for the day to warm. In the summer I write in the middle of the day when we all want to be inside with the air conditioner. I write 3 different series each year, so I have set a word limit to make sure I meet my deadlines. I'm very goal oriented so that works well for me. When I meet my goal, I can relax and play. Otherwise I think I would work all the time--and my health would suffer.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
I have finally yielded to the need to plot. Mysteries require a complex plot. To lay the clues and red herrings successfully requires an understanding of exactly where the book is going and who the villain is. But a synopsis is always subject to change if a character reveals something I didn't expect. I look at a synopsis or outline as the architectural plans for a house. You need that. But if the topography offers a different option, then you can change those plans so the house fits the land. But to just build a room and then start adding on is not the way to build a house--for me. Writers have to find the way that works best for them.

How do you promote your books?
I try to make myself as accessible to my readers as I can. I've made some excellent friends on FB, Twitter, etc., through my characters. I also belong to a promotional group called Writer Space, which has a long reach to readers. My assistant, Priya, runs contests and giveaways and keeps my website fresh and up-to-day (because I am a noodle head about technology). I speak at conferences and book clubs and libraries and gatherings when I can. But I honestly think that writing my stories is the best way to promote my books. If people feel I give them quality reading for the money they spend, they will return and buy the next book. I try to offer consistency, though Sarah Booth Delaney mysteries have a comedic element and the Pluto's Snitch mysteries are historical with a paranormal element. And soon, Trouble, the black cat detective, will be available--a whimsical mystery with a bit of romance. What I aim for is consistency of character development and a good plot.

Who is your favorite author?
I have a lot of favorite authors. A ton of them. I think James Lee Burke is one of the finest writers working today. His use of language is exquisite. But there are writers I admire for their plotting, their character development, their use of setting. So I can't really name one favorite.

Do you write with pen and paper or a computer?
I'm left handed so I only use a computer. I can't read my own writing after an hour. And it also hurts to write long-hand for any amount of time. I started writing on a Smith Corona portable electric typewriter, then an IBM Selectric. When I got my first Radio Shack Tandy computer, I was in heaven. I love word processing systems. Now the rest of the technology is beyond my ken, as my grandmother would say. But I love that computer for writing.

You can find a review of Hallowed Bones here

Monday, February 20, 2017

Searching for Monet

When your niece discovers a list of property owned by your extravagant grandparents and it includes a description of two water lily paintings, it's no wonder Kathleen Williamson and her sister Andrea Flynn jump in their car and head for the hills. In Moon Signs by Helen Haught Fanick, visions of Monet millions dance in their heads.

The sisters travel to the hotel their grandparents once owned to search for the painting. The hotel, in the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia, is now owned by a brother and sister - Stefan and Olga - and they have given the sisters permission to inspect the trunks left in the attic by their grandparents.

Before they are able to begin their search they discover the body of Olga behind the reception desk. Missing are two huge diamonds she wore, but was it a simple robbery or something more? With so many people in and out of the hotel and a local resident complaining about the "foreigners" invading the area, there are plenty of suspects. When Kathleen, Stefan, Andrea, Maggie and David are stranded on the ski lift and they hear a shot fired, their anxiety grows.

Meanwhile on the Monet hunt, Kathleen discovers the previous owner used the original frames to display his North Woods collection of art. She decides to remove the prints and check underneath them. Still on the case, Andrea discovers someone might be trying to kill Stefan.

With the possible Monet paintings swirling in the background and plenty of guilty looking people in the hotel, Kathleen and Andrea continue to investigate. They are charming pair, totally opposite in personalities, but I enjoyed their determination to find the killer. You'll have to read the book to find out if the water lilies were Monet paintings!

You can find more books by Helen Haught Fanick by clicking here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Pat Camalliere Interview

Interview with Pat Camalliere

How many books have you published?
I’ve written two books, The Mystery at Sag Bridge and The Mystery at Black Partridge Woods
. They are both historical mysteries, with a bit of the supernatural, and they are the first books in the Cora Tozzi Historical Mystery Series. Both books have a present-day component featuring an amateur sleuth who uses her historian skills to solve a mystery from the past, which in turn relates to a mystery in the present. My work-in-progress, #3 in the series, will deal with a family of Italian heritage living in the 1950s and a mystery that tracks to the Chicago Outfit.

Under what names do you publish?
I use my own name, but gave this a great deal of thought before coming to that decision. I did go with my nickname, Pat instead of Patricia, because that’s what people call me, I am an informal person, and it’s gender nonspecific, which can be an advantage in attracting readers. I wanted my family and friends to acknowledge me as a novelist. I guess in my head I saw my adult grandson holding up a copy of my book to his daughter and saying, “My grandmother, your great-grandmother, was a writer and wrote this book. It’s a good story—you should read it.” 

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, etc.
I need to start my mornings relaxed, so I have a leisurely breakfast and read for a while. My time is usually over by about 9 am. Next I find it difficult to work in clutter, be it workspace, home, or mind, so I follow my leisure period with a period of activity. I sort and straighten, answer emails, tidy the house, go to the health club. I try to have this done by 10 am. Then I do research and try to finish that by 11 am or noon. 

Then I dig in and write. I usually eat lunch at my desk, and I write until late in the afternoon, sometimes as late as 6 pm to 7 pm. I can recognize when I’m too tired to be productive—the writing suffers and there is no point in going on. I keep at it until I reach this point. Every day. Most of the time I spend between four and six hours in the creative process, and produce as little as 500 or as much as 4000 words. 

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
Since I write mysteries that are influenced by history, there are always plot details that are problematic and I don’t obsess over that. This results in a story, with holes. I define my characters, some in great detail, others not so much, and look for pictures of how I envision them for reference. Then I throw the characters into a situation, ask “what if,” and they tell me what to do. I work off of handwritten daily notes with reference to a larger list of points, checking them off as I either complete them or decide not to use them

After I have ended a chapter, I outline it. This helps me see if I accomplished what I set out to do in the chapter and lets me go back and fix obvious problems right away, as well as providing a handy way to find what I want to edit later. I always read the previous day’s work to set the stage before starting to write again.

How do you promote your books?
We’re all looking for that magic wand that makes people take a look at our work, but one of the difficulties is that yesterday’s wand doesn’t work today. I have a web site, and I write a local history blog. Social media is important but that can be a time-waster, so I limit myself to only Facebook and a few writer email groups. I belong to a number of writers’ organizations. I get professional reviewers to kick-start sales. I get a multitude of fan letters, and ask for readers to put a review on Amazon. I enter a few contests.

I find that I enjoy public speaking, so I have developed lectures on local history, local attractions, and writing, and I take advantage of opportunities to be where people are in the community. This has resulted in great local sales, but I’m still looking for a way to break into the larger market.

Who is your favorite author?
Right now I’m reading a lot of police procedurals and modern-day westerns. I especially like Jo Nesbo, Larry Watson, C. J. Box, Jim Thompson, Ed McBain, Robert Parker. For mysteries I like the English writers like Lynda La Plant and Elizabeth George. I throw in a classic or an epic now and then. I like Ken Follett and Phillip Caputo because their work is never formulaic or predictable. Allan Eckhart and James Alexander Thom write wonderful history of the Midwestern states. And of course I read a lot of books written by friends. 

Do you write with pen and paper or a computer?
Computer. You have to develop a manuscript you can share and taking time to do in on paper is a waste of time. I do handwritten notes but even those go on an Excel spreadsheet or into a journal I keep as a Word document. I’m trying Scrivener for my current work-in-progress in an effort to better organize my materials. There is a definite learning curve involved but I think it will be time well spent.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Murder in Scotland

I have always been a fan of Molly MacRae's books and Plaid and Plagiarism doesn't disappoint. It finds Janet Marsh, her daughter Tallie, her friend Summer Jacobs joining long-time friend Christine Robertson in Inversgail, Scotland. Not for a vacation, but to be co-owners of Yon Bonnie Books. What better place to open a bookstore, than in Scotland, home of famous storyteller Robert Louis Stevenson.

Janet and her family had spend many summers in Scotland until her professor husband started an affair witha married graduate student. Now after the divorce Janet is waiting to move into the house she has owned for years. The realtor tells her it will be a few more days before the renters leave, but when the days keep passing, Janet and Christine decide to see what the problem really is. What the discover it a completely trashed house and a bewildered realtor standing in the middle of it in shock.

When shrewish journalist Una Graham is found dead in in the garden shed at the house a few days later, Janet wonders who else besides Jess, the realtor, didn't like Una. After discovering nasty letters, the friends decide to investigate. They set up a Goggle doc so they can share information and put down their thoughts on the murder. "I" for information, "F" for facts.

I was really impressed that MacRae allowed these women to be tech savvy and not stereotypically afraid of the computer. They text each other during the investigation and check the Google doc for updates. I really enjoyed them and their Scottish setting. I look forward to other books in this series.

You can read a review of another Molly MacRae book by clicking here.

For books by MacRae, click here. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Hercule Poirot Returns

What would the first international blog post be with a Hercule Poirot book - not written by Agatha Christie - but by Sophie Hannah. In Closed Casket, Hannah is carrying on the Hercule Poirot mystery with the blessing of Dame Agatha's grandson Mathew Prichard.

Hercule Poirot and Edward Catchpool, a detective from Scotland Yard, are invited to celebrated children's author Lady Playford's estate in Clonkilty, Cork, Ireland for one week. Upon there arrival Lady Playford announces that she has changed her will to leave everything to her terminally ill secretary, Joseph Scotcher. But why does she disinherit her two children, Claudia and Harry, for someone who will die shortly from kidney disease?

Everyone is mystified included the two detectives. When Joseph Scotcher is find dead the next day with his head bashed in, Poirot and Catchpool try to unravel the mystery. Scotcher's long time nurse Sophie Bourlet claims she witnessed Claudia Playford with the club in her hand standing over
Joseph's body.

Before long, two mysteries things are discovered - Scotcher was poisoned, not bludgeoned, and he was healthy as a horse. No kidney disease. Why would someone pretend to be terminally ill for so many years?

Hercule Poirot uses his "little gray cells" to solve the problem with a  startling result.

Sophie Hannah treats Monsieur Poirot in the manner in which he is accustomed. She does a wonderful job of recreating Dame Agatha's voice.

Other books by Sophie Hannah can be found here.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Dim Sum, Lose Some

In Dim Sum, Dead Some, EM Kaplan sends her quirky food blogger to San Francisco with tempting foods everywhere. Josie Tucker and her friend Susan travel to San Francisco to meet the man Susan has been "dating" online for two years. Josie is coerced by wealthy Boston socialite Greta Williams (you remember her from the previous book) into take an investigating job for her.

As it turns out Susan's boyfriend James and his partner Ivan Sorokin have received funding for their new tech company Applied Apps from Greta, and she wants to make sure her investment is safe. When Josie arrives in San Francisco, the Ghirardelli sign is blinking enticingly at her. Now normal people would have not trouble eating ice cream or some other luscious treat from Ghirardelli's, but with Josie's twitchy stomach, she's not so sure. She splurges and pays the price through the night.

Next morning James, Susan and Josie are to meet Ivan for lunch.
James seems edgier that when she first met him and he confesses he has not been in touch with Ivan for days and is worried. Although they work remotely and it appears Ivan is coding from a remote location, the fact that he is not responding to texts or posts on the message board they use has James anxious.

When Ivan's body is found with multiple stab wounds, there are plenty of suspects - his wife, his stripper girlfriend, and even his partner.
Josie decides to investigate and winds up in the strip club after hours with the other strippers. Before long she is dressed (or undressed) for the occasion and even dabbles in some bump and grind for fun.

Through it all Josie's delicate stomach doesn't seem to be reacting to the many foods she has eaten including Dim Sum at James' parent's restaurant. Hidden millions and family secrets lead Josie on a wild chase to find the killer.

Once again EM Kaplan has sent Josie on a mission for Greta Williams that leads to plenty of action and one of Greta's trademark conclusions. An excellent mystery with all of Josie's quirks and antics.

Read my review of The Bride Wore Dead. For more books by EM Kaplan, click here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The White City

Emily Cabot is one of the few women admitted to graduate school at the University of Chicago in 1893, and she suddenyly becomes embroiled in a murder. Death at the Fair by Frances McNamara takes place during the 1893 Columbian Exposition, known as The White City, in Chicago.

When a wealthy Southern gentleman named Charles Larrimer is shot in the back at the Fair, Emily's friend, Dr. Chapman is found standing over the body. Chapman is a lecturer at the University of Chicago and he saved Emily's life last year. She is deeply indebted to him and knows he did not kill Larrimer. When his past association with Larrimer's wife Marguerite is revealed, the police arrest Chapman.

Lynchings, gambling, big city corruption and cronyism complicate Emily's search for the real killer. She enlists the aid of a Chicago Police Detective with a spotless reputation and black activist Ida B. Wells to clear Dr. Chapman.

Wells has written a pamphlet The Reason Why the Colored American is Not in the Columbian Exposition, and it contains a chapter on recent lynchings. The account of a lynching in Kentucky catches Emily's interest, particularly because that is where Larrimer is from.

Emily's investigation is thwarted by Southern reticence to discuss anything unpleasant and by the victim's ties to the Mayor of Chicago.

I enjoyed this book very much especially for the detail of the 1893 Columbian Exposition. I hate to admit I hardly knew anything about the spectacular architecture and design of the Exposition. 

To stroll The White City, click here.

For more books in this series click on Frances McNamara.