Gigi Pandian is well known for her locked room short stories, including her 2017 Agatha Award winner “The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn.” But with THE GLASS THIEF, the sixth and latest installment in her Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery series, Pandian tackles the genre in novel length for the first time.
In THE GLASS THIEF, a French family who once looted treasure from Cambodia is tormented by a series of unsolved murders, each striking two nights before Christmas in the family’s Paris mansion. The family attributes the murders to a ghost that has supposedly haunted their bloodline for generations, but historian Jaya Jones suspects a killer of the mortal variety and sets out on a quest to find a missing artifact that might hold the key to the mystery.
The Big Thrill recently sat down with Pandian for a talk about locked room mysteries, blending history with fiction, and the roots of her multicultural heroine.
Two and a half weeks ago magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack arrived home to find Ira Pollack, her half-brother-in-law, had blinged out her home with enough Christmas lights to rival Rockefeller Center. Now he’s crammed her small yard with enormous cavorting inflatable characters. She and photojournalist boyfriend (and possible spy) Zack Barnes pack up the unwanted lawn decorations to return to Ira. They arrive to find his yard the scene of an over-the-top Christmas extravaganza. His neighbors are not happy with the animatronics, laser light show, and blaring music creating traffic jams on their normally quiet street. One of them expresses his displeasure with his fists before running off.
In the excitement, the deflated lawn ornaments are never returned to Ira. The next morning Anastasia once again heads to his house before work to drop them off. When she arrives, she discovers Ira’s attacker dead in Santa’s sleigh. Ira becomes the prime suspect in the man’s murder and begs Anastasia to help clear his name. But Anastasia has promised her sons she’ll keep her nose out of police business. What’s a reluctant amateur sleuth to do?
The Big Thrill spent some time with bestselling author Lois Winston discussing the latest installment of her Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, HANDMADE HO-HO HOMICIDE:
I live not far from Winchester, so I know how passionate the fans of Jane Austen can be when they’re doing the tourist trail and taking in the sites associated with the great lady.
Elizabeth Blake’s PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND POISON launches the reader straight into an encounter with the group of strong-minded characters that make up the local branch of the Jane Austen society.
Blake took some time out of her busy schedule this month to talk to me about her new cozy mystery for The Big Thrill.
Your research for the story left you surprised at the depth of feeling of Jane Austen fans. Is there a writer whose works you feel so passionately about they become real to you? Have you ever been a member of any sort of fan club?
I’ve felt that way about so many writers…as a reader, I think you form an emotional bond with characters you love. One of the first fictional characters I felt that way about was Sherlock Holmes. I wasn’t surprised to learn Conan Doyle got fan mail from people who believed Holmes was real. I had an enormous crush on him. I still do. I’ve never belonged to a fan club, though. I don’t think I have the fan personality.
A voice on the phone says Jennifer’s best friend has tragically died in a fatal fall at a national park. Her certainty that it was no accident starts TV reporter Elizabeth Danniher, with friends Mike, Tom and Diana plus the rest of the Caught Dead in Wyoming crew, on an investigation that moves faster – and closer to them – than any of them could ever expect. They’ve barely had time to catch their breath since the events of Cold Open and now one of their own becomes a target as they race time and a murderer before this Hot Roll burns them all.
The Big Thrill and USA Today bestselling author Patricia McLinn got together to discuss the newest installment of her Caught Dead in Wyoming series, HOT ROLL:
As owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market, Pepper Reece is always on the go. Between conjuring up new spice blends and serving iced spice tea to customers looking to beat the summer heat, she finally takes a break for a massage. But the Zen moment is shattered when she overhears an argument in her friend Aimee’s vintage home decor shop that ends in murder.
Wracked by guilt over her failure to intervene, Pepper investigates, only to discover a web of deadly connections that could ensnare a friend—and Pepper herself.
Bestselling author Leslie Budewitz met up with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest cozy mystery, CHAI ANOTHER DAY:
In the latest entry in this USA Today bestselling series, Jessica loses a loved one to unnatural causes and sets her sights on the mysterious local hospital before more people wind up dead on arrival…
Jessica Fletcher’s favorite gin rummy partner, Mimi Van Dorn, checks into the brand-new Clifton Care Partners, a private hospital that’s just opened up shop in town, for a simple procedure—one that leads tragically, and inexplicably, to her death. Seeking justice in her inimitable fashion, Jessica decides to pursue her own investigation on the hospital and its shadowy business dealings.
On the trail of what initially appears to be medical malpractice, Jessica digs deeper and learns her friend was actually a victim of something far more sinister. Death is bad for business, but murder is even worse, and Jessica will find plenty of both as she races to bring down Clifton Care Partners before someone else flatlines…
The Big Thrill caught up with bestselling author Jon Land to discuss his latest installment in the Murder, She Wrote series, MURDER IN RED:
CHANGING OF THE GUARD DOG is the latest installment in Lane Stone’s successful Pet Palace mystery series. This latest takes place in, you got it, Lewes—correctly pronounced “Louis,” as in the Keymaster from the film Ghostbusters.
After finding the body of a tuxedo-clad Danish conductor washed up on their peaceful beach, Buckingham Pet Palace’s co-owner, Sue Patrick, and her partner Lady Anthea Fitzwalter, help Lewes’s Chief of Police, John Turner, solve a very unpredictable and page-turning mystery. Oh and by the way, dogs are involved.
Spend one minute talking with Stone, and you’ll find that she loves the craft of writing, unlike Dorothy Parker who once quipped, “I hate to write, but love to have written.” For Stone writing is a passion, and she devotes most of her free time—when she’s not walking her dog—to putting pen to paper, or more correctly, fingers to the keyboard.
But there’s more to the author than cozy mysteries.
In this The Big Thrill interview, she shares insight into her life, her work, and her vision.
By P. J. Bodnar
When a firefighter named Bucky dies in a mill fire and three others are injured—including Andi Comstack’s brother—his spirit enlists Andi to help find the arsonist and solve his murder. Having proven herself a worthy advocate in the past, Andi helps the local fire department with information from her “Smokies”—those who have been recently cremated, like Bucky.
“The afterlife intrigues me. Does it exist? What’s it like? Who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell? Are people caught in limbo, and that’s why there are so many ghost sightings?”
These are the questions that inspire and intrigue author Ann Simas, and she tries to answer them in her supernatural series of books featuring Andi Comstock. With HELLFIRE, the fourth book in the series, Simas hopes readers will “approach this book and the others in the series with an open mind. I’d like them to consider the possibilities the series suggests.”
Here, she takes time to chat with The Big Thrill and answer a few questions about this fast-paced paranormal thriller.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lynn Cahoon combines dark themes with light-hearted fun in all three of her cozy mystery series: the Tourist Trap series, featuring the owner of a small coffee/book shop; the Farm-to-Fork series, featuring the owner of an Idaho farm-to-table restaurant; and the Cat Latimer series, featuring a Colorado English professor who owns a bed and breakfast. As the titles suggest, these books are comfort food for the mind, and Cahoon often hears from readers who say that her stories have helped them through difficult times.
A prolific writer, Cahoon has 51 distinct titles listed on Goodreads. She writes 2,000 words a day, five days a week, and has been on this pace since beginning her upcoming Farm-to-Fork book in February. “Ten thousand a week gives me a good pace and keeps me in the story,” she says.
Asked how she manages to maintain this demanding schedule while holding down a day job, she says, “I write in bursts. Two fifteen-minute breaks, words at lunch, complete my words as soon as I get home. Then my evening is free. This is a release week so I’m a little behind in words, but I’ll catch up on Saturday. Writing until I hit the 10K.”
Then she adds, “All the other things fall in after the words. Always get the words first.”
Spring has sprung in quaint Taylorsford, Virginia, and the mayor has revived the town’s long-defunct May Day celebration to boost tourism. As part of the festivities, library director Amy Webber is helping to organize a research project and presentation by a local folklore expert. All seems well at first—but spring takes on a sudden chill when a university student inexplicably vanishes during a bonfire.
The local police cast a wide net to find the missing woman, but in a shocking turn of events, Amy’s swoon-worthy neighbor Richard Muir becomes a person of interest in the case. Not only is Richard the woman’s dance instructor, he also doesn’t have an alibi for the night the student vanished—or at least not one he’ll divulge, even to Amy.
When the missing student is finally discovered lost in the mountains, with no memory of recent events—and a dead body lying nearby—an already disturbing mystery takes on a sinister new hue. Blessed with her innate curiosity and a librarian’s gift for research, Amy may be the only one who can learn the truth in PAST DUE FOR MURDER, Victoria Gilbert’s third charming Blue Ridge Library mystery.
The Big Thrill caught up to Victoria Gilbert, and here’s what she had to say:
When Alicia helps plan a Valentine’s Day party at the Cobble Cove library that also includes a surprise for her newlywed friend, Gilly, things go wrong when a mysterious box of chocolates addressed to the director turns out laced with poison.
Clues Lead to A Dead Suspect
Although Alicia promised John she’ll no longer meddle in crime investigations, she and Gilly set out to find the person threatening Sheila who murdered the courier of the deadly candy. The three people they suspect include the professor from California who’s been romancing Sheila while she assists him with research for his book; the obnoxious patron Rhonda Kleisman who threw coffee at the director after refusing to pay for a damaged book; and a visiting widow staying at Gilly’s inn who’s unnaturally curious about Sheila and earns the nickname of Madame Defarge for her interest in knitting.
New Cat in Town
While Alicia and Gilly are trying to solve this new Cobble Cove mystery, Sneaky is introduced to Gilly’s new kitten, Kittykai, a calico she brought home from her honeymoon in Hawaii. It’s not like at first sight, but the two cats eventually become friends. They also both play a part in foiling the killer’s murder attempts, but will Alicia and Sheila survive unscathed?
Award-winning author Debbie De Louise spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the fourth installment of her Cobble Cove mystery series, LOVE ON THE ROCKS:
Staying in character can be murder when Cat Latimer and the members of her writers’ retreat head for a ghost town…
Cat and the members of her writers’ retreat have just arrived in Outlaw, Colorado, an “Old West” tourist town complete with inhabitants dressed up as famous figures from history. But this authentic slice of Americana takes a murderous turn when a college student masquerading as a 19th-century saloon girl becomes history herself.
Was she the intended target? Or did she take a hit meant for someone else? With a cast of suspects to choose from—including some notorious gunslingers and the sleazy town founders—Cat must unhorse the real culprit before a real-life ghost story is given a killer twist…
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lynn Cahoon took time out of her busy schedule to sit down with The Big Thrill and discuss the latest installment in the Cat Latimer Mystery series, SLAY IN CHARACTER:
Pru’s friends and neighbors are abuzz with the news of an acting troupe putting on an outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And while many are eager to catch a glimpse of famed actor Ambrose Grant, Pru can’t wait to finally see the spectacular gardens of the private estate where the play will be performed. When the estate’s gardener abruptly quits—frustrated with actors trampling his beloved plants—Pru is called upon for her gardening expertise. She throws herself into creating magical woodland forest scenes, and is quickly drawn into the excitement of putting on a play, as she watches the drama on and off the stage. But the play’s suddenly no longer the thing, when one of the actors turns up murdered.
Pru’s husband, Detective Inspector Christopher Pearse, relies on Pru’s knowledge of all the players in this particular intrigue, and Pru finds herself using rehearsals to investigate. But playing the role of private eye could prove perilous for Pru, as she closes in on a murderer who won’t let anyone—least of all the gardener—keep him from stopping the show . . . dead.
The Big Thrill caught up to bestselling author Marty Wingate to discuss the latest installment in her ever-popular Potting Shed mystery series, MIDSUMMER MAYHEM:
With A SCANDAL IN SCARLET, author Vicki Delany delivers the fourth instalment of her Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery series. In this shrewdly plotted tale, Gemma and Jayne donate time to raise money for the rebuilding of a burned-out museum—but a killer wants a piece of the auction.
Delany is no stranger to crafting riveting plots and memorable characters. The multi-published author has three—count them!—cozy mystery series on the go, and so the first question any fellow writer has to ask is, which is her favorite of those series and why?
“That’s like asking me which is my favorite child. Difficult to answer, but in this case not impossible,” she says.
“I’m particularly fond of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series. I love attempting to create the mind of The Great Detective in a modern young woman. It has its challenges: if Gemma Doyle, my fictional bookshop owner, is to be like Sherlock, she sometimes has to be a bit clueless about people’s reactions to her deductions, not understanding that they might not want her to know things about them they’d rather keep hidden. So it’s a balancing act, making her super smart but sometimes unaware of people’s feelings; making her kind and well-intentioned, but not able to understand why people don’t always keep up with her. All of that that makes her an interesting character to write. And I love my fictional bookshop. Everything sold in it, books and merchandise, exists in the real world.”
Below, Delany takes some time to indulge The Big Thrill with more insight into A SCANDAL IN SCARLET, the trajectory of her writing career, and her love for the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes.
Lynn Cahoon’s home page says she writes about small towns and families—the ones you’re born into and the ones you create. That’s a nice way to sum up all three of her cozy mystery series: the Tourist Trap series, which features the owner of a small coffee/book shop; the Farm-to-Fork series, which features the owner of an Idaho farm-to-table restaurant; and the Cat Latimer series, about a Colorado English professor who owns a bed and breakfast.
These are fun books, which is not to say they are inconsequential. Cahoon discovered cozies while she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and many of her readers, enduring struggles of their own, find hope and comfort in Cahoon’s stories.
“I dabble in dark themes,” Cahoon says. “I’ve written about spousal abuse, drugs, dysfunctional families, and high school bullying. But my readers know that good will win over evil and there will be a happy ending.”
Her latest work, A DEADLY BREW, has a Halloween theme and a touch of the supernatural. Like many cozies, the setting plays a strong role in the story, and in this case, it’s a long-empty house on the coastline—a perfect Halloween haunted house and the ideal place for four couples to spend the weekend in an “all-in-good-fun fright fest.” But when they try to conjure up a spirit, they get more than they bargained for.
A DEADLY BREW is a novella, book #5.25 in Cahoon’s New York Times and USA Today bestselling Tourist Trap series. The first book in the series, Guidebook to Murder, won the Reader’s Crown for Mystery Fiction. For those who like a little more spice with their mystery, Cahoon also writes romance under the pseudonym Lynn Collins.
Cahoon agreed to talk with us about her latest release. Let’s welcome her to The Big Thrill.
In Dorothy St. James’s third delectable Southern Chocolate Shop mystery, a new batch of chocolate and troubles of the heart cause a string of disasters for The Chocolate Box’s new owner, Charity Penn.
The vintage seaside town of Camellia Beach, South Carolina, seems like the perfect place for romance with its quiet beach and its decadent chocolate shop that serves the world’s richest dark chocolates. The Chocolate Box’s owner, Charity Penn, falls even further under the island’s moonlit spell as she joins Althea Bays and the rest of the turtle watch team to witness a new generation of baby sea turtles hatch and make their way into the wide ocean.
Before the babies arrive, gunshots ring out in the night. Cassidy Jones, the local Casanova, is found dead in the sand with his lover Jody Dalton—the same woman who has vowed to destroy The Chocolate Box—holding the gun. It’s an obvious crime of passion, or so everyone believes. But when Jody’s young son pleads with Penn to bring his mother back to him, she can’t say no. She dives headfirst into a chocolate swirl of truth and lies, and must pick through an assortment of likely (and sometimes unsavory) suspects before it’s too late for Penn and for those she loves in Dorothy St. James’s third rich installment of the Southern Chocolate Shop mysteries, IN COLD CHOCOLATE.
Multiple award nominee Dorothy St. James spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the latest installment in her Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series, IN COLD CHOCOLATE:
Jill Gardner has volunteered her Coffee, Books, and More to host a Christmas adopt-a-pet party. Among the potential forever friends is a male terrier named Baby, whose owner died of a heart attack. With few clues to go on, even finding the name of Baby’s human is a daunting task. But there’s no challenge too big for Jill this holiday season.
Playing Santa’s Little Helper, Jill is determined to find out what happened —and to fulfill a long-time coming Christmas wish…
The Big Thrill caught up to New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lynn Cahoon to discuss her latest mystery, SANTA PUPPY:
Jessica Fletcher has had plenty to worry about over her storied career, both as a bestselling novelist and amateur sleuth. But she never had any reason to worry about her longtime publisher, Lane Barfield, who also happens to be a trusted friend. When mounting evidence of financial malfeasance leads to an FBI investigation of Lane, Jessica can’t believe what she’s reading.
So when Barfield turns up dead, Jessica takes on the task of proving Barfield’s innocence–she can’t fathom someone she’s known and trusted for so long cheating her. Sure enough, Jessica’s lone wolf investigation turns up several oddities and inconsistencies in Barfield’s murder. Jessica knows something is being covered up, but what exactly? The trail she takes to answer that question reveals something far more nefarious afoot, involving shadowy characters from the heights of power in Washington. At the heart of Jessica’s investigation lies a manuscript Barfield had intended to bring out after all other publishers had turned it down. The problem is that manuscript has disappeared, all traces of its submission and very existence having been wiped off the books.
With her own life now in jeopardy, Jessica refuses to back off and sets her sights on learning the contents of that manuscript and what about it may have led to several murders. Every step she takes brings her closer to the truth of what lies in the pages, as well as the person who penned them.
The Big Thrill caught up with USA Today bestselling author Jon Land to discuss the next book in the Murder, She Wrote series, MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER:
Savvy hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a charity bake-off contest at a fall festival sponsored by a local farm. While she waits to see if her coconut fudge pie is a winner, Marla joins a scavenger hunt where people playing character roles are the targets. Instead of scoring points with a live person, she finds a dead body planted face-down in the strawberry field. Who would want to cut short the life of food magazine publisher and fellow bake-off contestant Francine Dodger? As she investigates, Marla learns there’s no shortage of suspects. A celebrity TV chef, food critic, olive oil importer, food truck owner, pastry chef, and cookbook author may be stirring up more than their next recipe. Can Marla unmask the killer before someone else gets trimmed from life?
Bestselling author Nancy J. Cohen spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the fifteenth installment in The Bad Hair Day mystery series, TRIMMED TO DEATH:
MARDI GRAS MURDER, Book Four in USA Today bestselling author Ellen Byron’s Cajun Country Mystery series, dishes up a zesty jambalaya of Louisiana charm and darkness. Byron melds quirky but endearing small-town characters, humor, and a twisty who-done-it with a touch of danger into a story fans are sure to devour.
The Cajun Country Mysteries have been nominated for Agatha, Daphne, and Lefty awards. The second in the series, Body on the Bayou, and the third, A Cajun Christmas Killing, won Lefty awards for Best Humorous Mystery.
Among the praise for these books, Publisher’s Weekly said in a starred review, “There’s no end to the mischief and mayhem.” Suspense Magazine wrote, “Not only is the story a whole lot of fun to read, with a historical plantation setting, but there are also mouthwatering recipes.”
In the upcoming MARDI GRAS MURDER, a hundred-year flood on Bayou Beurre serves up a body with a fatal gunshot wound on the shore at the Crozat Plantation Bed and Breakfast. No one in Pelican, Louisiana knows who it is, but Maggie Crozat, daughter of the plantation owners who run the B and B, feels responsible to identify the victim and find out who in her Spanish moss-festooned environs would want him dead.
With plenty of her father’s gumbo to fuel her, Maggie juggles her job as a tour guide at another plantation, the restoration of a mysterious painting she feels may hold a clue to the murder, her role as a judge in the Miss Pelican Mardi Gras Gumbo Queen Pageant, and her not-so-perfect relationship with her boyfriend, Pelican Police Detective Bo Durand.
Besides her mother, father, and grandmère, Maggie has her friends Gaynell and Ione to help her, along with the Pelican PD and a variety of other entertaining characters.
The Big Thrill caught up with Byron recently to talk about her work.
But she didn’t expect to find herself cast into such chaos: the incomprehensible play is a disaster, the crumbling theater appears to be haunted, and, before long, murder takes center stage.
The show must go on—yet as they speed toward opening night, it becomes clear that other members of the company may be targeted as well. Lila searches for answers while contending with a tenacious historical society, an eccentric playwright, an unsettling psychic, an enigmatic apparition, and a paranormal search squad.
With all of this in play, will she be able to identify who killed her colleague…or will it soon be curtains for Lila too?
Award-winning author Cynthia Kuhn took time out of her busy schedule to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss the latest installment of the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, THE SPIRIT IN QUESTION:
When a break-in at the Pet Palace robs Sue Patrick of more than her beauty sleep, she intends to tidy her ransacked doggy daycare and spa before making any rash decisions. But after Sue abandons her better instincts to rescue a petrified pug stranded at a lighthouse in the Delaware Bay later that morning, she’s lured off mainland Lewes long enough for a freshly murdered body to get dumped in her driveway . . .
Aided by Lady Anthea Fitzwalter, her practically royal business partner from across the pond, Sue sniffs out clues about the yappy pug with a complicated history and the old car spotted at both crime scenes in hopes of IDing the culprit. As the investigation leads them back to the bay, the ladies soon find themselves immersed in a case trickier than a canine agility course—and chasing after a well-groomed killer who will do anything to maintain a perfect reputation . . .
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PUG author Lane Stone took time out of her busy day to chat with The Big Thrill about her latest cozy mystery:
SHATTERED AT SEA is the fifth installment in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery series, which Kirkus Reviews has called “mystery with a touch of romance and interesting tips on glassmaking.” In the latest entry, a Mediterranean cruise gives glass shop owner Savannah Webb a chance to demonstrate her expertise—and fire up her skills when it comes to foul play.
When Savannah signs on to perform glassblowing on a cruise ship, part of the appeal is that she’ll get a chance to reconnect with her boyfriend Edward’s family. An added bonus is Edward’s cousin, Ian, will be joining them on board. But when Ian disappears at the beginning of the cruise, the ship’s authorities initially consider it suicide.
Savannah tries to balance her growing suspicions with work on her shows, but her relationship with the other glass artists begins to crack. And she can’t let love color her judgment when Edward suddenly jumps to the top of the suspect list. His fate is in Savannah’s hands, and she’ll do everything she can—on land and sea—to clear his name.
I caught up with Hollon for a wide-ranging discussion about books, characters, glassmaking, and of course, her latest novel. Asked how SHATTERED AT SEA continues the arc of the ongoing series, Hollon says, “As Savannah’s management and organization skills grow in running her business, her increasing confidence allows her to take risks as a professional glass artist. It’s also a chance to challenge her growing relationship with Edward. Travelling together as a couple stresses the strength of a bond. It could ruin them forever.”
In television, a cold open sometimes rolls before the opening credits, often a teaser to news or a feature to follow. For TV journalist Elizabeth Margaret “E. M.” Danniher, a nippy March and April are just a tease for spring after a long Wyoming winter. In her short time in Sherman, she’s learned that winter starts in October and might not end until June. Since last June, a series of murders have tested her and her KWMT-TV colleagues’ reporting – and amateur sleuth — skills. And the small town’s rumor mill is churning about her relationship with handsome sports reporter Mike Paycik – or is it rugged rancher Tom Burrell?
As winter winds down, Elizabeth is ready for spring and looking for a place of her own. Ah, a little peace and quiet as she begins to settle in Cottonwood County. That is, until she discovers homicide at her front door.
USA Today bestselling author Patricia McLinn met with The Big Thrill to discuss the seventh installment of her Caught Dead in Wyoming series, COLD OPEN:
It’s often said that the Brits and the Americans are two nations divided by a common language, and there’s nowhere that’s more evident than when we’re discussing food. Or murders. Or murders with a food connection…
In KILLER GREEN TOMATOES, the second entry in Lynn Cahoon’s Farm-to-Fork Mystery series, restaurant owner Angie Turner is tasked with clearing the name of a produce supplier suspected of murdering his girlfriend. Cahoon recently sat down with The Big Thrill to answer a few questions about writing cozies, balancing male and female points of view in her novels, and the food-centric setting of her latest series.
You quickly build up a picture of the County Seat, the restaurant owned by the main character of KILLER GREEN TOMATOES. Is it based on a real place?
It’s a mixture of a lot of places. There’s a small Italian restaurant (or was) on Cole Road in Boise that had the lighted pergolas in the dining room. And I’ve mixed in a farm-to-fork place in Nashville called the Farm House. But really, it’s just a unique creation. I’ve waitressed before so I know the feel of a restaurant, even though I was in a breakfast franchise rather than high dining.
By Wendy Tyson
Kellye Garrett grabbed the attention of the mystery community when her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, delighted readers and won the 2017 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, the 2018 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery Novel, and the 2018 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Award Gold Medal for Best First Book. Since then, Garrett has been nominated for additional awards, including the Anthony and Macavity awards for best first novel, and her second novel in the Detective by Day mystery series, HOLLYWOOD ENDING, was just released this month.
The Big Thrill recently sat down with Garrett to talk about her exciting first year as a published novelist and her most recent release.
The Detective by Day mysteries are engaging, funny whodunits—not hard-boiled stories like we so often see with crime novels set in Hollywood. What drew you to the traditional mystery genre?
I’ve loved mysteries since I picked up my first Encyclopedia Brown story as a kid. When I was around 12, I discovered Joan Hess and Jill Churchill. I have a very overactive imagination so it’s hard for me to read darker stories, especially ones centering on abuse or twisted serial killers. Traditional mysteries allow me to get my whodunit fix while still being able to sleep at night.
Grace Gabbiano left Seattle PD under a dark cloud, but as a sergeant with Coburg PD, she’s put all that behind her. She certainly doesn’t expect her former lover, Dave Mackey, to come asking for help a year later. Chief Aidan Cruz has a short fuse for bad cops, and he’s certain Mackey falls into that category. Mackey engages in a cat-and-mouse game with Grace, and then he vanishes, leaving her to wonder exactly how insidious the Seattle “thing” she left behind actually is.
Ann Simas, author of QUILTED TO DIE, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest mystery:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
It’s so much fun being able to bring my heritage to a book series, I’d really like readers to fall in love with Grace Gabbiano and her Italian family—their quirks, their food, their deep ties to each other, her mother’s persistent attempts at matchmaking. Aside from the family aspect, I want readers to be so engaged with QUILTED TO DIE that they won’t want to put it down and when they do, they’ll be eagerly awaiting the next book. (Backstory: Check out Dressed to Die, Sliced to Die, and Buried to Die to find out what Grace has been up to until now.)
By George Ebey
In AGAINST THE CLAW, the second book in Shari Randall’s Lobster Shack Mystery Series, injured ballerina Allie Larkin is back home lending a hand at her aunt’s Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack. It’s the Fourth of July—the height of the tourist season—and Allie is even helping on a lobster boat.
The last thing she expects to find out on the bay is the dead body of a beautiful young woman.
When the police can’t ID the corpse, Allie takes it upon herself to learn what happened. Her investigation takes her all the way from the local piers to the secluded estates of Mystic Bay’s elite. But how can she crack the case when everyone seems dead-set on keeping their secrets beneath the surface?
The Big Thrill checked in with author Randall to learn more about the latest book in her popular Lobster Shack Mystery Series.
AGAINST THE CLAW is the second book in your series. For the uninitiated, could you give us a brief idea of what the series is about?
The Lobster Shack mysteries center around Allegra “Allie” Larkin, a dancer whose broken ankle puts her career on hold. While she heals, she returns home to the seaside village of Mystic Bay, Connecticut, and pitches in at her quirky Aunt Gully’s Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack. Allie discovers that the tight knit New England community she thought she knew harbors long buried secrets that some will kill to keep hidden.
A LADY’S GUIDE TO ETIQUETTE AND MURDER isn’t the debut one might expect from a woman who spent most of her adult life in the world of corporate finance. It’s a cozy historical novel set in the late Victorian era, and the heroine is an American heiress forced by circumstance to become an amateur sleuth. The few references to finance are plot-related, authentic to the period, and easily understood by even a layman like myself.
But maybe it’s not so surprising after all.
Author Dianne Freeman is a life-long book lover who pursued writing as a hobby throughout her corporate career and then co-authored a non-fiction book, Haunted Highway, The Spirits of Route 66, before quickly realizing her true love was fiction, historical mystery in particular. In short, she has spent years laying a solid foundation for this well-crafted debut.
Her research led to some unexpected insights. “Victorians weren’t so staid and uptight as I once thought,” she says, “nor were Victorian women meek. In fact, they were very much like we are today, only the technology has changed.”
Asked what authors inspired or influenced her career, she reveals two very different writers: “Edith Wharton, who made me fall in love with the late Victorian era, and Janet Evanovich, who showed me that humor and mystery could coexist.”
The only thing better (with my crime reader’s hat on) than finding a new-to-me author whose works I really enjoy, is to discover there’s a whole series of them.
I’ve long been a fan of HRF Keating’s Inspector Ghote, so I was delighted to come across Inspector Chopra. Which fictional detectives have influenced him—and you?
Chopra is in his late forties, with a mission—the pursuit of justice in a nation where wealth and influence often means you can escape the consequences of your actions. For 30 years he has trod the streets of Mumbai as a policeman, and he cares deeply about the social ills that he sees in the “super-powered” new society that is modern India. Chopra is a closet anglophile and has a fondness for Holmes, and often chews on a pipe when thinking—though he does not smoke. I too am a fan of Ghote, but my key influence is Louise Penny’s Detective Armand Gamache, a thoughtful, sober man who is universally recognized for integrity and honesty in an increasingly turbulent world. (Of course, Gamache doesn’t have an elephant!)