By Dawn Ius
Leslie Budewitz started writing at the age of four—on her father’s desk. Literally. She would scrawl on top of the wood with her crayons, pencils, or whatever she could find.
Thankfully, her parents were understanding, and to this day, Budewitz’s mother, now eighty-nine, buys her daughter notebooks and pens for Christmas, a loving reminder about the concept of paper.
Harriet the Spy inspired Budewitz to use the notebooks, a habit still, but she concedes they’re more of a journal than a secret spy record.
In them, she jots ideas for recipes and stories—both of which are passions she’s combined to write cozy mysteries, such as her latest, ASSAULT AND PEPPER, the first in her new Spice Shop series.
“One challenge of starting a new series—and a big part of the fun—is populating the story and getting to know the characters,” she says.
In ASSAULT AND PEPPER, Pepper Reece is the proud new owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market, and by Budewitz’s own description, someone who “totally does not mind being the poster child for the cliché, life begins at forty.”
“After thirteen years of marriage, she discovered her police officer husband and the meter maid in a back booth in a posh new restaurant practically plugging each other’s meters,” she says. “She moved out and bought an unfinished loft in a century-old downtown warehouse. Then the law firm where she’d worked imploded in scandal and took her job with it. So naturally, she tossed her office wardrobe, cut her hair, and bought the Spice Shop, a forty-year-old institution that had lost its verve.”
By John Clement
LADLE TO THE GRAVE is the fourth installment in the Soup Lover’s Mystery Series by Connie Archer. The books follow the story of Lucky Jamieson, whose life was turned upside down when her parents met an untimely death in a car crash on an icy road. Lucky has returned home to the cozy, idyllic town of Snowflake, Vermont, to run her family’s popular soup shop, “By The Spoonful,” but (as is wont to happen in these cozy, idyllic towns) murder is afoot…
The latest book opens in the woods. It’s almost May, and some of Snowflake’s local ladies have organized a celebration to welcome the arrival of spring. But it doesn’t quite go as planned, does it?
Certainly not! It’s a murder mystery after all. I had a lot of fun imagining this scene and it actually turned out a bit more humorous, I think, than I had originally anticipated (that’s if you ignore the death throes of the local woman.)
New England has a rich and fascinating history, but also a dark one. At the time I was working on LADLE TO THE GRAVE, I was reading a very well-researched non-fiction work on the Salem Witchcraft trials of 1691-1692. This book was far more chilling than any horror story I could have imagined. So I think a bit of that concurrent reading inspired the pagan scene. Now, I’m not equating paganism with horror, not at all; however, that’s not how the early Puritan colonists would have viewed it.
Growing up in New England I always felt the shadow of its Puritanical past, its history of witchcraft trials, even its Indian massacres. And I’m reminded of Shirley Jackson, a transplanted Californian, who said she was inspired to write The Lottery and other horror stories after her years of living there. I understood what she meant about the “hauntedness” of that part of the country. That’s one of the reasons it’s been so enjoyable for me to write a series set in Vermont and to juxtapose the comfort and safety of the village against the sense of danger lurking in the woods.
Renowned wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to audit the books. In what he thought was a sleepy provincial town, he is stonewalled, crosses paths with his first love, and stands up to high-level state officials keen on controlling the buyout.
Meanwhile, irresistible Virgile mingles with the local population until a drowning changes the stakes.
Part of the ongoing Winemaker Detective series.
“The Winemaker Detective mystery series is a new obsession.” —Marienella
“The descriptions of cognac and cigar scents and flavors drew me in as if I, too, were a connoisseur.” —4-star librarian review
“This book and its successors will whet appetites of fans of both Iron Chef and Murder, She Wrote.” —Booklist (on Treachery in Bordeaux)
S.L. Ellis’s debut novel hit the streets with attitude! Cassie Cruise wants her life back as a kick-ass P.I. Trouble is, she has zero credibility since bungling a case on reality TV. After a public tantrum, she slinks off to bury her head in the sandy beaches of Southwest Florida.
Just as she starts over as the owner of The Big Prick Tattoo Shop, a body is discovered in the trunk of her burning car. Cassie’s aware there are those who’d get in line for their turn to torch her car. But murder?
You don’t have to like her, but you damn well better respect her. And get out of her way—this is one case she intends to solve, with or without an audience.
Kirkus Reviews called it “A captivating introduction to a cozy female PI series with potential for wide appeal.” Jack Magnus of Readers’ Favorite went further: “Ellis’ hard-boiled detective story, Lane Changes, is a refreshing new take on the private detection genre. Cassie starts working on a mystery . . . she just can’t let go, and it’s a joy to watch her as she digs in with a ‘to hell with the consequences’ attitude. I’m looking forward to reading more stories featuring Cassie Cruise. Lane Changes is good, gutsy and highly recommended.”
S. L. Ellis came from a small-town in Michigan, where life consisted of family and work and too much winter. After a few decades of shoveling and scraping snow, Ellis was ready for a fresh start. A move to Florida and time on the beach improved her disposition a hundred-fold. It’s there that writing became more than a thought. Classes were taken, workshops worked, and a few books written.
By Stacy Mantle
There are cozies for every topic, and that includes baby boomers. Award-winning author Susan Santangelo is the master of taking a lighthearted look at the issues facing the seventy-six million members of the fastest growing market segment in the country: the baby boomers.
Santangelo is a baby boomer herself and has worked as a feature writer, drama critic, and editor for publications throughout New York. Retirement Can Be Murder, the first in the Baby Boomer series, was released in 2009 and she has averaged a new novel in the series each year. Her third novel in the series, Marriage Can Be Murder, was selected as one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Mysteries of 2012.
On top of being an acclaimed author, she is also a breast cancer survivor. Santangelo devotes a percentage of sales of all books to the Breast Cancer Survival Center, a nonprofit organization she co-founded in 1999 to provide post-treatment education and support for cancer survivors.
THE BIG THRILL had the opportunity to connect with her about her newest popular release, FUNERALS CAN BE MURDER.
Most of your books are focused on the baby boomer generation. What is it that fascinates you most about this demographic?
I’m an early member of the baby boomer generation myself. As my husband and I were approaching our own “milestone” years, I began to focus on what issues we were going to have to deal with. Everything I read focused on financial planning for retirement and beyond. But nobody seemed to be dealing with the emotional impact of retirement, particularly as it impacts a marriage. I’ve written for years for magazines and newspapers, and always loved the mystery genre. So I decided to combine retirement with a funny mystery and wrote “Retirement Can Be Murder,” the first in what has morphed into the Baby Boomer mystery series.
Jean Harrington published the first of her series of mysteries featuring interior designer Deva Dunne in 2012. The fifth, THE DESIGN IS MURDER, was published last month. In it Deva, hired by not one but two clients whose wives have suffered suspicious deaths, continues to stumble across bodies and search for answers, much to the annoyance of her fiancé, a detective in the Naples, Florida, police force.
Tell us about your series Murders by Design and the new book THE DESIGN IS MURDER.
The Murders by Design series are tongue-in-cheek cozy mysteries that take a light-hearted look at murder and mayhem. (I love a good oxymoron.) In the first book, Designed for Death, amateur sleuth Deva Dunne is a young widow struggling to climb out of her sorrow and rebuild her life. So the books, over time, show her change and grow as she strives, with wit and humor, to find happiness again and, incidentally, with the help of Lieutenant Rossi, to solve one murder after another.
In the latest release, THE DESIGN IS MURDER, Deva’s client James Stahlman believes Stew Hawkins moved into the house across the street to terrorize him after he became engaged to Kay, Stew’s ex-wife. But Stew is over it. He’s remarried—and to someone much younger. When just days apart, both women are found dead under mysterious circumstances, Deva thinks there’s something afoot on Whiskey Lane. Could the death of these women be coincidence, or were they the victims of foul play?
You were a professor of English literature at Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts, for sixteen years. What led you to writing your own books?
After talking about fiction for years and dissecting it in the classroom, I longed to try my hand at writing it. So as soon as I stopped teaching, I began to write. The learning curve was much steeper than I anticipated but exciting and fulfilling. Creating people, fleshing them out, giving them personalities, strengths and weaknesses then setting them loose in a believable time and place is great fun. Kind of like world-building really, and where else but in fiction can I get to do that?
By John Clement
My cat Spike could climb clear to the top of a seven-foot Christmas tree without dislodging a single ornament—admittedly not the most useful skill in the world (especially given that his descent produced far less desirable results) but I thought it was a pretty awesome trick nonetheless. I imagine your cat has a similarly awesome gift. In fact, I think I can safely say that everybody in the world thinks their feline mate is extraordinary in one way or another. Kathleen Paulson, however, may have bragging rights on all of us. Her gray tabby, Owen, has the ability to make himself invisible, and her tuxedo cat, Hercules, can walk through walls.
Kathleen and her super-powered cats are the creation of Sofie Kelly, author of the Magical Cat Mysteries set in the fictional town of Mayville Heights, Minnesota. The latest, number six in the series, is A MIDWINTER’S TAIL from Berkley/Signet. It’s early December, and Kathleen is hosting a fundraiser for the town library when the ex-wife of a local businessman dies of an allergic reaction. Kathleen is immediately suspicious, and soon she and her super-powered felines are on the trail of a killer.
Sofie, tell us a little about Mayville Heights. It feels very much like an actual town.
I’m happy to hear that Mayville Heights feels real to you. I grew up in a small town so I suspect that influences my writing. And several observant readers have noticed that Mayville Heights sounds a lot like the real town of Red Wing, Minnesota. That’s not by accident. When the Magical Cats series began, I found a video tour of Red Wing online when I was looking for something else. Something about the town captured my imagination.
How did you come up with the magical powers of Hercules and Owen?
The cats’ magical abilities actually came from a suggestion made by my editor. I’m glad I listened to her.
By John Clement
The phrase “a skeleton in the closet” entered the lexicon of popular culture in the early 19th century with the rise of the Gothic novel—an enduring genre blend of horror and romanticism that’s as beloved today as it was in Victorian England. Here’s Edgar Allen Poe, in his classic short story The Black Cat, first published August 19, 1843, in The Saturday Evening Post:
“Gentlemen, I delight to have allayed your suspicions,” and here, through the mere frenzy of bravado, I rapped heavily upon that very portion of the brick-work behind which stood the corpse of the wife of my bosom. The wall fell bodily. The corpse, already greatly decayed, stood erect before the eyes of the spectators.
Every family has a skeleton in the closet. If yours doesn’t, that just means you don’t know about it… yet. Author Leigh Perry has taken that notion one step further, creating a new mystery series that is as clever as it is entertaining.
The first book in the Family Skeleton Series, A SKELETON IN THE FAMILY, came out last fall. Can you talk a little bit about the main characters? Is there anything unusual about any of them?
The two main characters are best friends Georgia Thackery and Sid. Georgia is an adjunct English professor and the single mother of a teenage daughter who is house sitting for her parents in a small New England town. Sid is single, an avid reader, and lives in the Thackery attic. Nothing all that unusual.
Wait! Did I mention that Sid is a skeleton? An ambulatory skeleton—or osteo-American, which is what he calls himself.
By Duffy Brown
Recently I sat down with Mary Kennedy to discuss NIGHTMARES CAN BE MURDER, her life as a psychologist/novelist, and why Savannah is the perfect setting for a mystery series. NIGHTMARES CAN BE MURDER is the first in her new Dream Club series and is available at stores and online this month.
Like most writers, you’ve had a rather checkered career (and I mean that in a good way!). You’ve been a copywriter for a rock radio station, a television news writer, a spokes-model, a university professor and now you’re a clinical psychologist. Will all these characters appear in your books?
Most of them, at least the interesting ones. I once went for a job interview and the person across the desk said, “Well, you are either the most versatile person I’ve ever met or you show a shocking lack of direction in your life.” Naturally, I asked him if we could go with “the most versatile person he’d ever met” theory. He laughed and gave me the job of PR Director for a major travel company. I haven’t used that character in a series yet, but I may.
I love Dr. Maggie, the psychologist turned radio talk show host in The Talk Radio Mysteries. Now you’ve moved on to the Dream Club Mysteries. Was it much of a stretch, going from psychology to dream interpretation?
No, I think it was a natural progression. Most of my clients love to talk about their dreams and I’ve done quite a bit of research on them. Freud said dreams are the “royal road to the unconscious.” Many psychologists think that dreams give us a unique insight into our thoughts, our fears, and out fantasies. Other people think they are just random firings of the brain as it rests and rehashes the day.
But how did you take the next step and write a whole series about a dream club?
The New York Times did a big piece on the popularity of dream clubs here in the northeast. I’m not sure how far they’ve spread across the rest of the country. The idea is very appealing. It’s like a support group. You meet with a small group of trusted friends every week and talk about your dreams. Of course, in NIGHTMARES CAN BE MURDER, the members not only analyze their dreams, they solve a murder or two.
Since dropping out of medical school, Ovidia Yu has been a copywriter and one of Singapore’s most popular playwrights (thirty plays and slightly fewer awards) with short stories, novellas, and one volume of children’s fiction published in Singapore, Malaysia, and India. AUNTY LEE’S DELIGHTS, her first mystery featuring busybody widow Rosie “Aunty” Lee, was published to good reviews in the United States last year and the next book, AUNTY LEE’S DEADLY SPECIALS will be available from 30 September 2014.
What is the best thing about being a mystery writer?
You get to read mystery books and tell yourself that you’re working. In the name of research, you get to ask people questions that would normally get them mad at you (“What’s the one that that makes you really angry with your husband?” and “If your girlfriend killed your sister by accident what would you do with the body?”). You get to meet all kinds of people you wouldn’t normally—like I was speaking to private investigators to find out what their work is really like. “It’s like going fishing,” one told me. “Only the scenery is not so peaceful. Most of the time you are sitting there for hours doing meditation with your eyes open.”
Apparently in Singapore the police and the PIs get along better than they do in most mystery books. There’s a course you have a take to become a private investigator and part of it covers how to collect and record evidence that can be used. I’m thinking of signing up for the course myself—once I’ve finished the current book. In fact, it could lead to a new job; they told me that if “this book business doesn’t work out you can try working for us” because they need more women. Apparently, one or men look suspicious following people, but a woman or a couple draws no attention.
And another big plus is getting to go to mystery conventions like Bouchercon and Crimefest and talking to other people who love books and reading and writing. And, of course, you can collect more books!
Jessie Crockett’s first cozy mystery, LIVE FREE OR DIE, won the Daphne du Maurier Award for mainstream mystery. Her new series, the Sugar Grove mysteries, features Dani Greene, from a prominent New Hampshire family of maple syrup makers, and a large cast of colorful secondary characters.
Just out now is the second book in this series, MAPLE MAYHEM, in which Dani tries to set up an agricultural cooperative to help smaller sugarhouses, setting off a chain of vandalism and then murder.
Please tell us a little about yourself. You’re a New Hampshire native?
Native might be too strong a word. I’ve lived in New Hampshire since I was eight years old. Both of my parents were born and raised in Maine so I feel very strongly that northern New England is my home.
What can you tell us about your new book, MAPLE MAYHEM?
MAPLE MAYHEM involves maple syrup maker Dani Greene’s thwarted attempts at starting an agricultural cooperative. She finds herself confronted by sabotage and ultimately murder in her quest to help her neighbors and herself to improve the bottom line in their sugaring businesses.
By John Clement
I spent an inordinate amount of time in front of the television in my so-called “formative years,” and two shows in particular wormed their way into my permanent consciousness. One was I Dream of Jeannie. The other was Bewitched. I knew full well both these shows were nothing but pure fantasy, but that didn’t quash the sneaky suspicion lingering in the back of my mind that if I just tried hard enough, I could unlock my own as-yet-unrealized magical powers.
Well, I’m still waiting for those powers to reveal themselves, which is probably why I felt a little rush of excitement when I opened up Dawn Eastman’s latest mystery, BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WITCH FOR, the follow-up to her popular debut, PALL IN THE FAMILY. Both books are set in the small Michigan town of Crystal Haven, where an unusually large population of magically gifted (and hilariously eccentric) residents has transformed the town into a kind of Mecca for hopeful tourists. They come from far and wide in search of psychics, healers, spells, and perhaps even a bridge to the spirit world.
Enter Clyde Fortune, who’s left her stormy career as a cop in nearby Ann Arbor for some quiet reflection in her eccentric hometown—only to find that things in Crystal Haven are anything but quiet, and her telepathic relatives are all hoping she’ll rejoin the family business. As it turns out, Clyde’s experience as a police officer, coupled with her long-suppressed psychic abilities, make her particularly well suited for crime-solving.
I had the pleasure of talking with Dawn about some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating the wonderful world of Crystal Haven.
Let me say this straight out. I am not a cozy reader. Hey, this is THE BIG THRILL, and we’re all fans of International Thriller Writers, right? But I met John Clement at ThrillerFest 2013 and I knew that whatever this guy wrote would be something I’d want to read. Not only did John give the funniest sixty second intro ever heard at a Debut Breakfast, but the story behind how John came to be writing turned out to be as meaningful as the books themselves.
The Dixie Hemingway series pushes the envelope in a lot of ways for murder mysteries, and that’s probably because the author tends to push the envelope in his own life as well, seeking to challenge himself, and never backing down even when the prospect might be daunting. I hope you’ll be as impressed as I am by the open, honest answers that follow, and join me in celebrating the release of THE CAT SITTER’S NINE LIVES.
There is a very poignant background to the way you came to write your first Dixie Hemingway mystery, THE CAT SITTER’S CRADLE. Can you tell us something about how it all happened?
It’s funny. Now, looking back on how it unfolded, I can see what a bizarre story it is, but at the time it all seemed perfectly normal… probably because I was still in a bit of shock. My mother, Blaize Clement, published her first mystery, CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT SITTER, back in 2005 with St. Martin’s Press. She then went on to write six more books in the series, which follow the adventures of Dixie Hemingway as she struggles to piece her life back together after the loss of her family. It sounds dark, and at times it is, but it’s also hilarious and witty and has lots of cats so it fully qualifies as a cozy mystery, even if it slightly pushes the boundaries. In 2011, after about a year of battling with cancer, my mother’s doctors told us there was little hope of survival. She elected to discontinue treatments. We moved into a hospice home in Sarasota, Florida, and it was there that she put the finishing touches to her last book, THE CAT SITTER’S PAJAMAS.
Shirley McCann has produced “solve it yourself” mystery stories and a teen mystery, and her writing has appeared in Woman’s World, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery, The Forensic Examiner, and many other publications.
The Springfield, Missouri, resident’s newest release, ANONYMOUSLY YOURS, is a cozy that comes with a whiff of romance, a missing corpse, and the threat of more bodies appearing or disappearing. At the time of this interview, Shirley was working hard on edits for her YA novel. THE SCARRY INN will be released by Black Opal Books but is still cloaked in secrecy, so we focused on ANONYMOUSLY YOURS.
ANONYMOUSLY YOURS started as a YA book and evolved into a cozy mystery. How long did the writing process take and how did you manage the transition?
Considering it started out as something else, the process took quite a while. But once I knew what I wanted to do with it, the re-vamp took very little time. The story line remained the same, but the characters had to grow up, plus I had to incorporate a bit of technology that wasn’t around when I first wrote it.
Can you tell us which elements of the characters and mystery you carried over, and why?
It didn’t work for me as a YA. I wanted the characters grown and planning careers for themselves. And I wanted them to be able to carry weapons legally. The only people who were actually changed were the main characters, Denise and Justin. But I also added a lot of character development and story line to the original.
Previously you produced some very interesting “solve it yourself” mystery stories in the collection GOT TIME? 13 SOLVE IT YOURSELF MYSTERIES and the teen mystery THE NECKLACE. Which is your favorite mystery mode to write in?
I’m not sure I have a favorite. I enjoy the mystery, whether it’s a short story, YA, middle grade, or adult. I’ve recently signed a contract for a YA suspense. I also think a lot of adults read YA, so it’s a very fine line there. I know I still read them. I think it’s just whatever the mood strikes me at the time. I don’t want to limit myself.
And what are your favorite mystery-thriller reads?
Mary Higgins Clark is my favorite. I also enjoy reading her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark. I also can’t get enough of David Baldacci and Harlan Coben.
Two of your lead characters share a love of cop shows. Do you share this love and what are some of your favorite shows?
Of course I do. I still watch reruns of Murder She Wrote and Colombo. Law and Order is another favorite, as are NCIS and Bones.
Can you tell us a little about your writing process? What is a typical day like for you?
I play at a real job part of the week, so sometimes writing is just a hit and miss game. I do enjoy getting up early on my days off and writing when the world around me is quiet and dark. I’m not much of a night person. At home, I have my laptop handy and open so I can sit and jot things down as I think of them.
In ANONYMOUSLY YOURS, Denise Thomas finds a body and runs. What would you do if you found a dead body?
I’d probably scream or faint or both. I definitely wouldn’t remain in the house while I phoned the police. Denise would have if circumstances had been different. She’s braver than I am.
I would really like to see more of Denise (and Justin Banks!). Can you tell us if you are planning more books in this series?
I hadn’t thought about that. I’m getting ready to start the edits on a YA series, which I’m hoping will be released sometime this year. But Justin and Denise together again? I kind of like that possibility. We’ll see.
Shirley McCann’s fiction has appeared in Woman’s World, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, The Forensic Examiner, and many other publications. She enjoys reading and writing all genres. She lives in Springfield, Missouri. Her newest release, ANONYMOUSLY YOURS, is a cozy mystery. Her YA Novel, THE SCARRY INN, will soon be released by Black Opal Books.
To learn more about Shirley, please visit her website.
By John Clement
In preparation for this piece, I sent Leslie Budewitz, author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mystery series, an email asking if there were any questions she was absolutely sick of being asked. She told me the only thing that makes her sweat is when people ask how long it took to write CRIME RIB, the follow-up to her Agatha Award–winning first novel, DEATH AL DENTE.
She told me keeping track of her time isn’t easy, largely due to the fact that she is, for lack of a better word, busy. She’s published short stories in numerous magazines (including Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock), she’s working concurrently on two separate mystery series, and as if that’s not enough, she’s also a practicing lawyer. In fact, her book on how to write accurately about criminal law won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction—making her the only author in history to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction.
Perhaps I’m a sadist, but all that did is make me want to ask.
How long did it take to write CRIME RIB? Or, more specifically, what is your writing process, and how in the world do you juggle the demands of life, work, and your different writing projects?
When you’re not yet published but hoping to be, published authors often say, “Don’t rush—you have all the time you need for the first book, but once you get a contract and face those deadlines, it gets a bit crazy.” And while it turns out to be true, every aspiring author hates hearing it.
So I won’t say it.
Every day presents a different set of challenges. I do still practice law—personal and business litigation, and some employment matters—but part-time, with a small firm here in western Montana. When we’re busy with a case, or a client has a pressing need, I have to take care of that first thing in the morning. Only then do I feel mentally free to call up my imaginary friends and play.
By Amy Lignor
Lovers of cozy mysteries already know that Cherry Tucker is quite a character. So it will come as no surprise to readers that Cherry’s amazing creator, Larissa Reinhart, is exactly the same. Fun, friendly, intelligent, imaginative—Reinhart is an author who has done it all. From traveling to distant countries and enjoying different cultures to looking down at a ferocious monkey attached to her arm with teeth bared to teaching English in Japan and History in America, Reinhart has that “spark” that draws people to her books. And, thankfully…she is not even close to stopping.
The cozies starring Cherry Tucker have appeared on bestseller lists—from Amazon to Barnes & Noble, and beyond—for many reasons. The character may be unforgettable, but the complex plots offer readers everything from murder to mayhem to romance, with a slice of humor and sarcasm thrown in for good measure.
It was in 2012, in PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY, when readers were first introduced to Cherry Tucker. And this June, the fourth in the series, DEATH IN PERSPECTIVE, arrives on the scene. But it’s important to note that Reinhart’s mind is always working. She’s even thinking about one day perhaps branching into the realm of action/adventure, or even the YA horror world. This is a woman who loves life—making her not only a great author, but a fascinating interview.
Bryan Robinson, author and psychotherapist from Asheville, NC is the winner of the 2014 Annual Beverly Hills International Book Award for BEST MYSTERY and a finalist for BEST REGIONAL FICTION for his debut novel, LIMESTONE GUMPTION. The announcement was made this week from Hollywood, CA. In bestowing the award, the judges said, “LIMESTONE GUMPTION, truly embodies the excellence that this award was created to celebrate, and we salute you and your fine work.”
LIMESTONE GUMPTION crosses the boundaries of its cozy mystery genre to reach underlying human, social, and environmental issues while offering a model of conservation for niche cultures of the American South.
A debut novel written with a veteran pen, it is the first of a series of Brad Pope and Sisterfriends mysteries that promise to enthrall a loyal following. LIMESTONE GUMPTION is expertly crafted with controlled plot twists and quirky, memorable characters whose development grips the reader as much as the mystery itself. With light-hearted deftness, it also provokes much thought on wider issues.
While coping with the exigent requirements of academic life, Bryan E. Robinson always dreamed of writing a novel. The waiting period has only served to hone his pen on a shelf-full of acclaimed scholarly works. And growing up in a small southern town, he is hardly a stranger to the milieu of his fiction.
In LIMESTONE GUMPTION, when psychologist Brad Pope returns to his hometown to settle a debt with his estranged father and re-establish a bond with his cantankerous grandmother, he is accused of murdering town hero and cave diver, Big Jake Nunn. Brad quickly realizes that not all the demons from his dysfunctional family history are safely buried in the past.
Connie Archer’s Soup Lover’s Mystery series has the requisite cozy ingredients: a picturesque Vermont village setting, a cast of likable recurring characters, a smart and plucky heroine who runs a soup café called By the Spoonful and hears all the local gossip. But with two national bestsellers, A SPOONFUL OF MURDER and A BROTH OF BETRAYAL, the author has proven that today’s readers of traditional mysteries will accept the occasional on-scene murder, a realistic depiction of a crime scene, and a sensitive portrayal of the aftermath of violent death.
The fourth book in the series, A ROUX OF REVENGE, is out this month. Connie talked recently about her books and her view of modern traditional mysteries.
Murder is the most terrible act a person can commit, and it changes the lives of all those involved. Do you see any contradiction between this truth and the reader’s expectation of a cozy mystery? Do you think explicit violence and gore are necessary to give this dreadful crime the respect it deserves?
I’m not sure I can speak to readers’ expectations. I approach the murder and the murder scene in the most realistic way I can. What’s important is the story and the murder must naturally arise from the story, whether that’s the description of the actual murder or the grisly discovery of the body. I think it’s important to be realistic.
By John Raab
Nancy Cohen is an awarding winning author who writes in several different genres. Her latest book, HANGING BY A HAIR, the next in her Bad Hair Day mystery series, has just been released. What is HANGING BY A HAIR? Have a peek of the jacket description and then check out an exclusive interview with the author:
Marla’s joyous move to a new house with her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, is marred by their next-door neighbor who erects an illegal fence between their properties. When Dalton reminds the man of the local permitting laws, tempers flare—and worse, the neighbor is found dead the following day. Dismayed when Dalton is removed from the case due to a conflict of interest, Marla decides it’s up to her to find the killer. Can the intrepid hairstylist untangle the clues and pin down the culprit before he strikes again?
Give us the inside scoop into your latest book, HANGING BY A HAIR
Marla and Dalton Vail move into their new neighborhood and attend their first homeowner’s meeting, where her husband gets into an argument with the HOA President. Marla is a hairdresser and salon owner in Palm Haven, Florida, while her husband of three months is a homicide detective.
Who hasn’t disagreed with their HOA rules or their Board of Directors at some point? Unfortunately in Dalton’s case, the man is found dead the following day. The victim also happens to be their next-door neighbor.
How well do you know the people living on either side of you? Personal experiences work their way into my tales, and this one is no exception. Research took me down some fascinating paths as well. I learned about Native American burial sites, the Prepper movement, code enforcement, and more. And I got to spend a lovely beach weekend at Marco Island while researching a scene there.
By Karen Harper
Karen Harper recently caught up with sister Ohioan, Julie Anne Lindsey, while Julie was attending the Love Is Murder conference in chilly, snowy Chicago. Julie is building a varied, dynamic career in several genres, so we talked about her great new cozy mystery release and her wide-range of projects.
Tell us a bit about your new release MURDER COMES ASHORE.
Patience Price is just settling into her new life as resident counselor on Chincoteague Island when things take a sudden turn for the worse. A collection of body parts have washed up on shore and suddenly nothing feels safe on the quaint island.
Patience instinctively turns to current crush and FBI special agent Sebastian for help, but former flame Adrian is also on the case, hoping that solving the grisly crime will land him a win in the upcoming mayoral election.
When the body count rises and Patience’s parents are brought in as suspects, Patience is spurred to begin her own investigation. It’s not long before she starts receiving terrifying threats from the killer, and though she’s determined to clear her family’s name, it seems the closer Patience gets to finding answers, the closer she comes to being the killer’s next victim.
By my count, this is the fifteenth—count them fifteen—in the Tea Shop Mystery Series from Laura Childs, who also writes the Scrapbook Mystery Series and Cackleberry Club Mystery Series. In this newest entry, STEEPED IN EVIL, from the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author, Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is about to learn the true meaning of terror…
Theodosia Browning has never considered herself a wine connoisseur—tea has always been her forte. But that doesn’t mean she’s going to pass up an invitation to a fancy wine-tasting party at the upscale Knighthall Winery, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. But a sweet evening takes on a bitter aftertaste when a dead body is discovered in one of the wine barrels. It’s the son of the proprietor and Theodosia is soon swept up in the murder investigation. Could it be the ex-girlfriend, neighboring golf course owner, rival vintner, or angry step-mother? Take your pick, but beware! In between hosting a formal Downton Abbey tea and attending the Art Crawl Ball, Theodosia must deal with a raft of suspects. Still, it looks like a nasty killer might have her over a barrel until all is revealed and Theodosia endures a wild ride during a food truck chase!
“A climactic confrontation with the killer,” says PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, while ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS lauds Childs as “a master at creating characters readers care about.” And SOUTHERN WRITERS MAGAZINE selected it a “Must Read.”
Childs is a writer with a special talent for writing cozy mysteries paced like thrillers. Recently, I caught up with her to ask a few questions:
Linda O. Johnston’s TEACUP TURBULENCE is the sixth in her Pet Rescue series featuring Los Angeles animal shelter manager Lauren Vancouver, a woman with a soft spot for animals in need—and a keen eye for crime. . .
Thanks to a savvy ad campaign featuring teacup pups sporting HotPets Bling—a new line of faux jewelry dog collars—small dog adoptions have skyrocketed across the city. So when Lauren discovers a shelter in the Midwest with more toy dogs than it can handle, she arranges a private plane to swoop in and fly the pups back to LA.
But Lauren didn’t count on rescue worker Teresa Kantrim coming along for the ride. Teresa has cared for the dogs since they were found and doesn’t trust anyone from La-La Land to take over the job. Her biting comments clearly haven’t earned Teresa any new friends, but when she turns up murdered, it’s time for Lauren to dig into Teresa’s past and find out who wanted her put down.
TEACUP TURBULENCE is the latest in your Pet Rescue series. While many cozies feature pets, this is an interesting take on the subject. Is there a story behind the story?
I’ve had underlying themes to all of my Pet Rescue mysteries. When I heard about people who rescued homeless animals from areas where they’re less likely to find new families and moved them to places where people are seeking that kind of pet, I had to write about it! I interviewed a family connection who has performed such kinds of rescues, and I also did additional enjoyable research. Some people use their own private planes to transport pets, and others use cars. In TEACUP TURBULENCE, a relay of private planes is used to bring small, teacup sized dogs to Los Angeles where they’re suddenly in demand thanks to a special ad campaign conducted by Dante DeFrancisco, the benefactor of HotRescues, the fictional no-kill pet shelter run by my series protagonist Lauren Vancouver.
By Cathy Clamp
When homicide detective Hank Moran retired, he and his wife Helen purchased a motor home, planning to spend a few months touring the country. But mysteries, and murder, seem to follow them as they travel. In DEAD CATCH, the third book of the RV Mystery series, a seemingly innocent trip to take their grandson on a weekend fishing trip catches a lot more than fish. THE BIG THRILL sat down with author L.D. Knorr to talk about this new cozy mystery.
Tell us a little about the world where Hank and Helen live in and how they got involved in the amateur sleuth business after years of Hank being a detective.
Hank retired as a robbery/homicide detective from Kenner, Louisiana, and he and his wife Helen purchased a motor home to travel and see the country. During their travels they become involved in a few murder investigations. After spending thirty years as a detective the life was hard to give up for Hank, so in the third book of the series he decided to acquire his private investigator license. After aiding Hank in his most recent investigation, Helen decided to apply for her apprentice license in Hanks P.I. agency. In future releases they will be husband and wife investigative partners.
By A.J. Colucci
GHOST GONE WILD is Carolyn Hart’s 51st published novel. Her titles range from WWII suspense to cozy mystery to romantic suspense. The books have won Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards. Hart is a native of Oklahoma City, a Phi Beta Kappa journalism graduate of the University of Oklahoma, and a former president of Sisters in Crime.
In GHOST GONE WILD, the late Bailey Ruth Raeburn, Heaven’s irrepressible sleuth, returns to earth to help a scruffy but lovable twenty-something-video-game inventor who has lots of money and just as many enemies. Ruth foils a shooting but discovers her Heavenly supervisor has no idea she’s on earth, and this time she may never make it back to Heaven!
‘The well-constructed plot offers an ample supply of red herrings. Fans of benign ghosts such as those in Blithe Spirit and Topper will find a lot to like.”—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“Bailey Ruth and Wiggins will delight readers who prefer their mysteries light and seasoned with wit and the supernatural…Hart’s vision of heaven is a hoot.”—BOSTON GLOBE
We caught up with Carolyn for an interview on her latest book, remarkable career, and insight into her characters and writing process.
Your protagonist in GHOST GONE WILD has been described by reviewers as a benign ghost that is spirited, funny, and impetuous. What do you think makes Bailey Ruth so appealing?
Bailey Ruth is the girl in 8th grade that boys noticed, girls adored, and teachers enjoyed, while trying to keep her in her seat. She reminds us that Heaven is not a distant stained-glass dimension, but a haven for everyone, with all their quirks and individuality. Bailey Ruth lived joyously and that’s what she hopes for all she encounters on earth.
By Dawn Ius
Mystery author Barbara Graham likens writing a novel to creating a new quilt—both begin with an idea that grows.
“The book may begin with, ‘I could kill someone with XYZ.’ Then the story takes off as I explore who, how and why,” she said.
Though Graham has been writing far longer than she’s been quilting, these two passions are now intricately entwined. The Mystery Quilt series is centered on Sheriff Tony Abernathy and his quilting wife, Theo. While Sheriff Abernathy focuses on the more scientific, forensic facts of each mystery, Theo fills in the gaps from an entirely non police-procedural perspective.
“It seemed natural for the sheriff’s wife to have a profession and quilters are a very chatty, eclectic group,” said Graham. “The sheriff follows law enforcement protocol—interviews people, has evidence processed—you know, cop stuff. People who don’t want to ‘bother’ the sheriff with gossip, tell things he should know to his wife and she relays it.”
The quilting connection doesn’t stop with Theo, either. In each Quilting Mystery, Graham includes a specially-designed mystery quilt pattern. Over the years, she’s amassed quite the collection of quilt pictures, sent to her by fans of her novels—a wonderful point of relevance for an audience that, like Graham, enjoys a good mystery and a beautiful quilt.
Not to mention a little laughter.
By Stacy Mantle
Like Mayberry, but with Dead Bodies…
The tagline on her website reads, “Like Mayberry – with dead bodies…” and that effectively sums up Jessie Crockett’s entertaining series of mysteries. Homemade apple pie, family dinners, pancake breakfasts and a new meaning to the phrase, “getting tapped” – DRIZZLED WITH DEATH is a wildly entertaining mystery that will make you want to live in a small town, despite rising murder rates.
As an award-winning novelist, and avid “foodie” living in a tiny village in New Hampshire, Crockett has the perfect setting for her novels. Her Sugar Grove Mystery series is filled with life, love and death – and some memorable characters who will keep you coming back for more. Published by Berkley Prime Crime, DRIZZLED WITH DEATH is as delightful as the maple syrup her main character, Dani Greene, is so known for in this small town.
The setting is late fall in Sugar Grove, NH. Usually it’s a quiet season with sugarhouses focused on gearing up for holiday syrup sales. At Greener Pastures they are busier than usual as they prepare to apply for organic certification, and expanding a line of maple themed products for their newly opened store.
A SKELETON IN THE FAMILY by Leigh Perry, an effortlessly narrated, meticulously crafted cozy mystery, offers the distinctiveness of a talking house skeleton set to become iconic. Sid, the house skeleton, teams up with Georgia, a single parent, to detect a murder!
When single mother Georgia Thackery moves back into her parents’ house with her teenaged daughter, she has to face the family skeleton. Who is a skeleton. A skeleton named Sid. He walks, talks, makes bad jokes, and really dislikes dogs. Nobody knows exactly where he came from, but now he wants Georgia to find out, and track down his murderer. But their investigation may uncover a killer who’s still alive and well and bad to the bone…
NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Charlaine Harris writes: “Dr. Georgia Thackery is smart, resourceful, and determined to be a great single mom to her teenager. Georgia is normal in every respect—except that her best friend happens to be a skeleton named Sid.You’ll love the adventures of this unexpected mystery-solving duo.”
After eleven successful novels and five co-authored fantasy-mystery anthologies under her real name (Toni L.P. Kelner), Leigh Perry has kick-started a “brand new” cozy mysteries series under this pen-name, certain to keep her readers engrossed.
By Don Helin
In her novel, PALL IN THE FAMILY, Dawn Eastman unleashes a plot so entertaining that Jenn McKinlay, New York Times bestselling author of the LIBRARY LOVER’S MYSTERY says, “A tightly plotted, character driven triumph of a mystery, PALL IN THE FAMILY had me laughing out loud while feverishly turning pages to try and figure out whodunit. This novel sparkles with charmingly peculiar characters and a fascinating heroine, Clyde Fortune, who effortlessly shuffles the reader into her world like a card in a tarot deck. Eastman is fabulous!”Crystal Haven is the destination for tourists seeking psychics, séances, and the promise of contacting the spirit world. Ex-cop Clytemnestra (Clyde) Fortune has come home to kooky Crystal Haven to re-evaluate her life.
When a local psychic is killed, leaving behind a traumatized Shih Tzu, it seems to be in the cards for Clyde to get involved. With her old flame, Mac, leading the investigation, that may prove awkward. Whether she uses her skills as a cop or her long-denied psychic abilities, it’s up to Clyde to divine a killer’s identity before someone else suffers more misfortune.
Dawn Eastman lived in Michigan for many years, in a house full of animals, unusual people, and laughter. She now lives in Iowa with her husband, son, daughter, and one extremely bossy small dog. PALL IN THE FAMILY is her first novel.
I had the chance to catch up with Dawn the other day and ask her a few questions.
By George Ebey
Death and drinks are on the house in Allison K. Abbot’s new mystery thriller, MURDER ON THE ROCKS.
Mack’s Bar is one of those nice, friendly places where everybody knows your name. That’s great when someone’s buying you a round, but not so hot when you find yourself at the top of a list of murder suspects – with your fingerprints on the bloody knife! Mackenzie ‘Mack’ Dalton is a Milwaukee bar owner with a nose for trouble – literally. A neurological glitch called synesthesia has left her with extra perceptive senses. So when she stumbles upon a dead body in the alley behind the bar – the same spot where her own father was shot eight months earlier – she can tell right away there’s something fishy in the air. The lead detective thinks there’s a link between the two deaths, and he’ll need Mack’s help to sniff out the murderer amid the crowd of eccentric regulars. But when all the evidence points to her as the most likely culprit, it could be an early last call for Mack-and celebratory cocktails for a killer.
I recently caught up with the author to find out more about Mack’s Bar and see what’s on tap for Mack, her customers, and all of us.
Tell us a little about Mack’s Bar and why this is a good setting for murder.
Mack’s Bar isn’t a good setting for murder; it’s a good setting for solving them. Unfortunately, murder does come knocking on the door of Mack’s bar a time or two, but the outcome of that is a group of people who have an interest in solving crimes. Mack’s Bar is one of those cozy taverns that Wisconsin is so well known for, a big city bar with a small neighborhood feel. Many of the customers are regulars who live or work nearby, and they come in as much for the food and camaraderie as they do for the drinks. And as things evolve in the series, a lot of the customers at Mack’s will come because they want to help solve crimes, some of which are imaginary and offered up for fun as the series evolves, while others are all too real. Heading up this crime-solving group of barstool detectives is the bar owner, Mack Dalton, a feisty redhead who has a unique way of experiencing things, and Duncan Albright, the detective who thinks Mack’s quirky talent might come in handy for his line of work.
By Stacy Mantle
When I received my assignment to write about Clea Simon’s new mystery, I was thrilled. Simon has been one of my favorites for years and with 17 novels under her belt, I know millions of others also enjoy her pet noir series of mysteries. As an animal lover, I adore the focus her mysteries have on pets and the scientific research she incorporates into every work.
We sat down with Clea for an impromptu interview to discuss her newest release from Poisoned Pen Press entitled PARROTS PROVE DEADLY, available in stores on April 2, 2013.
What inspired the story of an African Grey Parrot as the center of a murder mystery?
Whenever I explain this series, I tell people, “Well, the animals don’t really talk, because that’s not how they communicate. But they make themselves understood.” Then I thought – or someone mentioned – well, what about animals that do talk. A friend referred me to the research psychologist Irene Pepperberg did with the parrot Alex, which showed that parrots can think and learn how to use words – our words – to convey thoughts, around the level of a three-year-old. That just hooked me! I thought: how would you know if a parrot was trying to tell you something, or just “parroting” back phrases? The more I researched, the more I wanted to use a parrot in a mystery. And of course, I knew Wallis would have strong feelings about Pru becoming involved with a bird.