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!)
But tonight there’ll be no family feud over dinner entrees.
Udderly’s hosting a campaign fundraiser for Eva’s best friend, who hopes to be South Carolina’s next governor. The candidate’s son, a pro quarterback, is flying home for the wingding. And Brie’s eager to get a close-up view of the cute tush she’s admired on TV, even though she’s reluctantly sworn off even more tempting local beefcake.
The campaign fundraiser promises to be a huge success until a pitchfork attack turns the goat farm into a crime scene—again.
To protect her friends, Brie puts her sleuthing skills to work. Will she live long enough to find out who’s behind a vicious assault, a kidnapping, blackmail, and murder?
Author Linda Lovely spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest mystery, PICKED OFF:
In Jewel Bay, Montana’s Christmas Village, all is merry and bright. At Murphy’s Mercantile, aka the Merc, manager Erin Murphy is ringing in the holiday season with food, drink, and a new friend: Merrily Thornton. A local girl gone wrong, Merrily’s turned her life around. But her parents have publicly shunned her, and they nurse a bitterness that chills Erin.
When Merrily goes missing and her boss discovers he’s been robbed, fingers point to Merrily—until she’s found dead, a string of lights around her neck. The clues and danger snowball from there. Can Erin nab the killer—and keep herself in one piece—in time for a special Christmas Eve?
The Big Thrill caught up with Agatha-Award winning author Leslie Budewitz to discuss her latest mystery, AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES:
Hoping to promote the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, co-owners Arabella Carpenter and Emily Garland agree to sponsor a hole in one contest at a charity golf tournament. The publicity turns out to be anything but positive, however, when Arabella’s errant tee shot lands in the woods next to a corpse.
They soon learn that the victim is closely related to Arabella’s ex-husband, who had been acting as the Course Marshal. With means, opportunity, and more than enough motive, he soon becomes the police department’s prime suspect, leaving Arabella and Emily determined to clear his name—even if they’re not entirely convinced of his innocence.
Dogged by incriminating online posts from an anonymous blogger, they track down leads from Emily’s ex-fiancé (and the woman he left Emily for), an Elvis impersonator, and a retired antiques mall vendor with a secret of her own.
All trails lead to a mysterious cult that may have something to do with the murder. Can Arabella and Emily identify the killer before the murderer comes after them?
A HOLE IN ONE author, Judy Penz Sheluk, took some time out of her busy schedule to discuss her latest mystery with The Big Thrill:
The first thing I noticed about Marty Wingate’s books was that they are very British. Reading her latest, FAREWELL, MY CUCKOO, I felt like I was strolling through the English countryside, meeting eccentric characters and soaking up the local ambience. These are the kind of charming books the word “cozy” was made for.
This newest book is part of the Birds of a Feather series, which follows Julia Lanchester, a bird lover who runs a tourist office in a Suffolk village. But one series isn’t enough for this bestselling author. She also writes the Potting Shed books, featuring Pru Parke, a middle-aged American gardener transplanted from Texas to England.
The Seattle native writes convincingly about Suffolk and other British locations. “England feels like a second home,” she explains. “My husband and I travel to Britain once or twice a year, and we’ve spent enough time that it’s easy for us to slip into the life. We stay with a friend in the Cotswolds and also spend time in Suffolk, in the village I’ve used as a model for Smeaton-under-Lyme, and where I’ve found inspiration not only for Hoggin Hall, but also Nuala’s Tea Room. Research is rewarding.”
During the last few years of her 21-year tenure as a violinist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Erica Miner found herself captivated by the endlessly fascinating intrigues that took place there—on and off stage.
“That’s what first inspired me to capture those plots and characters and bring them to life in fiction,” she says. “Between the murderous plots onstage and the murderous rivalries that I observed backstage, there was a seemingly limitless treasure trove of material to write about.”
Not to mention a setting ripe for danger and suspense— an opera house abounds with dark corners, hidden hallways and out-of-the-way stairways; heavy scenery is constantly being moved around; there are potentially dangerous elevator shafts everywhere.
Add in huge egos that tend to collide under stress, and “you’ve got the perfect formula to depict nefarious situations.”
“It was all about the opera,” she says. “It can kill you—seriously.”
So it would seem if Miner’s latest thriller, DEATH BY OPERA, is any indication. Here, in The Big Thrill, the author dishes on the inspiration for her new novel, and gives insight into the world of an opera singer.
A threatening note, a dead musician, and decades of secrets put the town’s first beach music festival and its band members in grave danger.
With help from her meddling half-sister and a new flavor of chocolate sweets to ignite the senses, Penn follows the shifting tide of evidence to uncover a forty-year-old secret.
Author Dorothy St. James spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the second installment of the Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries, PLAYING WITH BONBON FIRE:
This spring, Debra Sennefelder joins the ranks of authors who have entered the strange parallel universe that is cozy mystery land, where murder lurks around every seemingly harmless corner and the most innocent of activities can lead to the greatest danger. Her upcoming series launch features a sleuth with an unusual and distinctly modern occupation. In THE UNINVITED CORPSE, food blogger Hope Early sets out on a spring garden tour in the quaint town of Jefferson, Connecticut, only to find herself tracking a killer in order to clear her sister’s name.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Sennefelder to talk about the unique demands of crafting killers, sleuths, and villains for the cozy mystery market.
THE UNINVITED CORPSE is your debut novel. What does it feel like watching your first book take off?
A debut release brings on many feelings. It’s exciting to see a manuscript I began working on at my dining table turned into a real book. It’s satisfying to see all the work that went into writing, revising, and editing the book pay off. And it’s also scary because I have no idea of how it will be received. It’s definitely a roller coaster of emotions.
By John Darrin
As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her favorite genre is gay fiction, sometimes historical (sometimes hysterical) and usually with a mystery thrown into the mix.
This is Charlie Cochrane’s official brief bio. Anywhere you find something written about Cochrane, you learn that she claims to be basically unemployable, and she thinks she knows something about rugby. In this interview with The Big Thrill, Cochrane tells us why—and also introduces her 29th full-length book, and the 13th in her Lessons series, Lessons in Chasing the Wild Goose.
It’s not clear why Cochrane feels she is unemployable for several reasons. First, she is employed. Second, being a Cambridge graduate and an Applied Biologist she would, at a minimum, be more in demand than an Abstract Biologist. And finally, she has a history of quite impressive employment—such as training school governors. However, she would like to be the first woman to play cricket for the England men’s team—and in that particular instance, she probably is unemployable.
As for rugby, she says, “the sport has the theme of respect running through it, which means you can have women refereeing men’s games and it isn’t a problem. In fact, the best referee in the world is gay and no-one bats an eyelid.”
You wouldn’t know it from her lighthearted and clever cozies, but bestselling author T.C. (Toni) LoTempio started out writing horror. After realizing that, with the notable exception of Stephen King, there wasn’t much of a market for horror, she turned her considerable skills toward mysteries.
It seemed a natural progression; while LoTempio neither commits nor solves murders in real life, she has had a lifelong love of mysteries that began with the Nancy Drew classic The Secret in the Old Attic. She began honing her writing skills early as well, changing the endings of her books and comics if she didn’t like how they turned out.
With a bit of uncredited help from her cat ROCCO, she penned the Nick and Nora mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime, followed by the Cat Rescue Mysteries published by Crooked Lane. In true cozy fashion, the books sometimes include recipes, like the one named for Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman and made from horseradish, cheese, and thinly sliced beef on an Italian hoagie bun.
Asked which writers have influenced her writing, she says, “I’ve definitely been influenced from a young age by the Nancy Drew mysteries. I think I’ve read almost every girl sleuth series around, from Trixie Belden to Judy Bolton and everything in between. And I’m a big fan of today’s cozy mystery authors, particularly Laura Childs and Miranda James.”
Toni agreed to chat with The Big Thrill about her new release, a Cat Rescue mystery called DEATH BY A WHISKER.
The owner of a delightful Southern café tastes the sharp sting of suspicion in this delectable comfort food mystery . . .
It’s fall in Winter Garden, Virginia, and business at Amy Flowers’ Down South Café has never been better. So when struggling beekeeper Stuart Landon asks Amy to sell some of his honey, she’s happy to help. The jars of honey are a sweet success, but their partnership is cut short when Amy discovers Landon’s body outside the café early one morning.
As Amy tries to figure out who could possibly have wanted to harm the unassuming beekeeper, she discovers an ever-expanding list of suspects—and they’re all buzzing mad. She’ll have to use all of her skills—and her Southern charm—to find her way out of this sticky situation…
HONEY-BAKED HOMICIDE author Gayle Leeson stopped by The Big Thrill to discuss her latest mystery:
What seemed to be a fairly harmless prank takes a sinister turn when Daisy stumbles upon the body of Wally Stone, the mansion’s manager, who had set a trap for the culprit and was murdered for his trouble. This was clearly no apparition’s doing.
Once again, sisters Daisy and Rose Forrest find themselves up to their eyeballs in all sorts of shenanigans – chasing ghosts, holding séances, searching for priceless Revere silver, and losing a Japanese tourist or two along the way – as they search for a ruthless killer.
Penny Clover Petersen took time out of her busy schedule to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss the latest installment of her Daisy & Rose Mystery Series, PUSHING UP DAISIES:
Author Patricia McLinn’s latest Caught Dead in Wyoming installment BACK STORY keeps her characters in the state for which the series is named—but the author writes in several genres, and sets her stories all over the world.
It seems fitting, then, to start her interview with The Big Thrill on a question of geographical importance:
What are some tips for producing the local flavor without being clichéd?
I love—as a reader and an author—having a character who’s new to the setting of the book. That lets the reader experience the setting as a newcomer, too. They notice and experience things that the natives take for granted. They also stumble across things that the natives take with aplomb. Years ago, a friend and I stepped off a cable car in the Alps. The ground was snow-packed. We walked maybe ten feet and realized that behind us, people from our group were falling as soon as they reached the snow. The difference? My friend was from Canada and I grew up in Northern Illinois. We had automatically adjusted the way we moved. The people behind us, from Malaysia and Hong Kong, didn’t know to do that.
Many authors have written both crime and romance. What do you find are the similarities between the two genres?
Interesting question. As authors, we often talk more about differences in genre than similarities. Both crime and romance revolve around basic human urges—for safety/justice in the case of crime novels and for connection in the case of romance. Not only basic urges, but positive ones.
On a less high-faluting level, for me—as an author and as a reader—the essence is characters. In both romance and mystery, I want to experience a story through characters I enjoy spending time with. So, for both kinds of stories, I aim to create characters a reader can empathize with, can be comfortable with and can respect.
In continuing her career-makeover quest as a for-real detective, ex-teen and reality star Maizie Albright has a big learning curve to overcome. Her chosen mentor, Wyatt Nash of Nash Security Solutions, would rather stick Maizie with a safe desk job. But Maizie’s got other plans to help Nash. When a major movie producer needs a babysitter for his hot mess starlet, Maizie eagerly takes the job. But when her starlet appears dead and then not dead, Maizie’s got more than an actress to watch and a missing corpse to find. Maizie’s hunting a killer who may be a celebrity stalker. And Maizie might be the next celebrity who gets snuffed.
Author Larissa Reinhart was kind enough to spend some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, 16 MILLIMETERS:
Fleeing a disastrous love affair, university librarian Amy Webber moves in with her aunt in a quiet, historic mountain town in Virginia. She quickly busies herself with managing a charming public library that requires all her attention with its severe lack of funds and overabundance of eccentric patrons. The last thing she needs is a new, available neighbor whose charm lures her into trouble.
Dancer-turned-teacher and choreographer Richard Muir inherited the farmhouse next door from his great-uncle, Paul Dassin. But town folklore claims the house’s original owner was poisoned by his wife, who was an outsider. It quickly became water under the bridge, until she vanished after her sensational 1925 murder trial. Determined to clear the name of the woman his great-uncle loved, Richard implores Amy to help him investigate the case. Amy is skeptical until their research raises questions about the culpability of the town’s leading families… including her own.
When inexplicable murders plunge the quiet town into chaos, Amy and Richard must crack open the books to reveal a cruel conspiracy and lay a turbulent past to rest in A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS, the first installment of Victoria Gilbert’s Blue Ridge Library mysteries.
A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS author, Victoria Gilbert, stopped by The Big Thrill to discuss her new release:
By Wendy Tyson
New York Times bestselling author Lynn Cahoon first introduced us to former English professor Cat Latimer in A Story to Kill. Now Cat, who runs a writers’ retreat in the Victorian she inherited from her ex-husband, is back in OF MURDER AND MEN. In this newest installment of Cahoon’s popular cozy series, Cat’s business partner’s wealthy beau is found dead in the horse barn, and it’s up to Cat to manage a group of aspiring authors while trying to catch a killer.
The Big Thrill sat down with Cahoon to talk about her latest novel, the appeal of the cozy genre, and the importance of writing communities.
Congratulations on the recent release of OF MURDER AND MEN. No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
There’s a bit of a power struggle between Cat’s best friend and her first love, with Cat in the middle. And an ex-Alaskan cop may get more than words done during her retreat.
What attracted you to the cozy subgenre?
I was going through breast cancer treatments ten years ago. The one good thing about cancer is you have a lot of time to think or read. I did both, but as I scoured my library shelves, I found I enjoyed mysteries. Not ones with lots of gore or action, but instead, these community-based books where I could visit a new place or bond with new imaginary friends. That’s when I found the cozy genre. I started writing Guidebook to Murder a few years later and fell in love with writing cozies as well as reading them.
Celebrated glass artist Dennis Lansing is returning to St. Petersburg, Florida, for an exhibit at the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum. His unique style of embedding document images in his art is at the vanguard of contemporary glasswork. But as Savannah’s first boyfriend and a former apprentice to her father, Dennis’s return home has her reflecting on the past—a trip down memory lane that takes a dark turn when Dennis is found murdered at the museum with an old reference letter from her father in his pocket. A search through her father’s records sheds new light on Dennis’s history, but it seems his present life wasn’t so transparent either. Now, with a gallery of suspects to consider, it’s up to Savannah to figure out who fits the mold of a murderer.
The Big Thrill recently caught up to author Cheryl Hollon to discuss her latest release, ETCHED IN TEARS:
By Dan Levy
The daughter of a writer, Dr. Ines Eberl spent her formative years in Berlin, Germany and Paris, France, rich backdrops for any thriller writer. For her eighth novel, SOUND OF MURDER, Eberl opts for Austria, with the Alps as a backdrop to create a page-turned meant to enlist all of her readers’ senses.
In this interview with The Big Thrill, Ines shares a bit of her writing journey, and the inspiration behind her thrilling new release.
What started you writing eight novels ago?
I’m fascinated by the freedom of an artist to create a new world. And as I create a virtual world, I begin to understand the real one. I’ve always been a seeker and my curiosity is never satisfied. I am the daughter of a writer, and I grew up in the world of books, words, and languages. So, the circle of life now has been closed. It’s in my genes. I’m a born writer.
By Terri Nolan
Author Lane Stone splits her time between the D.C. area and Lewes, Delaware. STAY CALM and COLLIE ON is set in Lewes, a town with a real-life population a smidgen over 3,000— a number that might suggest that the locals all know each other. Stone capitalizes on her knowledge of the town and roots much of the action in actual locations. One can easily imagine her characters walking down the street among the tourists.
Characters like Stone’s protagonist, Sue Patrick. Patrick is co-owner of Buckingham Pet Palace, an upscale dog daycare and spa. Her business partner is Lady Anthea Fitzwalter, a proper Brit with a sly wit. Together, the two have a savvy and successful business model–despite never having met in person. But that’s about to change.
Lady Anthea arrives in town for a stay that will conclude with the Pet Parent Appreciation Gala at week’s end. The town is abuzz. But even the best laid plans can’t prevent anticipation from going sideways when a murder occurs.
Now Buckingham Pet Palace’s reputation is on the line when their driver is murdered and a swift moving rumor threatens the presumed success of the gala. The two women who have just met must now team up to save their business—and perhaps catch a killer.
Living on a farm with four hundred goats and a cantankerous carnivore isn’t among vegan chef Brie Hooker’s list of lifetime ambitions. But she can’t walk away from her Aunt Eva after the dairy’s pot-bellied pig unearths a skull. The skull belongs to Eva’s husband, who disappeared years before, and the sheriff, kin to the deceased, sets out to pin the murder on Eva. He doesn’t reckon on Brie’s resolve to prove her aunt’s innocence.
Death threats, ruinous pedicures, psychic shenanigans, and biker bar fisticuffs won’t stop Brie from unmasking the killer, even when romantic befuddlement throws her a curve.
Author Linda Lovely recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her novel, BONES TO PICK:
A trip to the Cotswolds turns into a brush with death for Pru Parke, the only gardener whose holiday wouldn’t be complete without a murder to solve. Pru is invited to redesign an arts and crafts garden, and she and her husband, former Detective Chief Inspector Christopher jump at the chance for a getaway. Unfortunately, the once thriving garden has fallen into heartbreaking neglect. When Pru stumbles upon the owner’s body in the garden – dead and pinned beneath one of his limestone statues – Pru’s work on the garden turns up one ominous clue after another, and she discovers that the scenery is more dangerous than she or Christopher could have anticipated.
Bestselling author Marty Wingate was kind enough to discuss her latest novel, BEST-LAID PLANTS, with The Big Thrill:
When hairstylist Marla Vail’s best friend is hurt in a suspicious car accident, Marla assumes guardianship of her infant son. No sooner does Marla say, “Baby want a bottle?” than she’s embroiled in another murder investigation. Her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, determines the crash may not have been an accident after all. But then, who would want Tally–or Ken in the car with her–out of the way? As Marla digs deeper into her friends’ lives, she realizes she didn’t know them as well as she’d thought. Nonetheless, it’s her duty as their son’s guardian to ensure his safety, even if it means putting her own life at risk. Can she protect the baby and find the culprit before someone else ends up as roadkill?
Award-winning author Nancy J. Cohen spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, HAIR BRAINED:
When Charity Penn receives a letter saying she won a trip to Camellia Beach, South Carolina complete with free cooking lessons at the town’s seaside chocolate shop, the Chocolate Box, she’s immediately skeptical. She never entered the contest. Her former prep school friend offers to look into the phony prize—only to end up drowned in a vat of chocolate.
Struck with guilt, Penn heads to the southern beach town to investigate why he was killed. But as wary as she is of the locals, she finds herself lured into their eccentric vibe, letting her defenses melt away and even learning the art of crafting delicious chocolates. That is, until delight turns bittersweet as she steps straight into the midst of a deadly plot to destroy the seaside town. Now, only Penn’s quick thinking and a mysterious cask of rare chocolate can save the town she’s learning to love.
Dorothy St. James, author of the The Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries, recently spoke with The Big Thrill about her latest release, ASKING FOR TRUFFLE:
After the success of Nearly Dead in Iowa, USA Today bestselling author Wendy Byrne is back with her sequel, DOUBLE TROUBLE IN IOWA. Amateur sleuth and artist Izzy Lewis returns to unravel another murder mystery and Byrne has taken time out to tell The Big Thrill about the attraction of this unlikely investigator.
“I love strong female characters, so wanted her to be strong, but floundering at times. I thought it would be interesting to have her be in a fish-out-of-water scenario walking into a place that is vastly different than what she’d become accustomed to. I loved Izzy’s character as well as her unlikely crime solving buddies, the Qs. I kept thinking about other mysteries they could solve and left some unanswered questions for follow-up books.”
Her “unlikely crime solving buddies” or, as Byrne calls them, the Jessica Fletcher wannabes, help Izzy unravel the mysteries and secrets in the story, but they bring an additional dynamic to the book we don’t often see in cozy mysteries.
“I liked the idea of breaking stereotypes and having her senior citizen lady friends be the risk takers and push Izzy to do things she might have been afraid of doing. I wanted to turn the tables and have her be the conservative one of the bunch,” Byrne says. This is never more so apparent than when they track down an informant in Hell’s Tavern, a broken-down trailer masquerading as a bar, and the older ladies encourage Izzy to take risks – causing much mayhem thereafter.
It’s Oktoberfest in Pittsburgh, and brew pub owner Maxine “Max” O’Hara is prepping for a busy month at the Allegheny Brew House. To create the perfect atmosphere for the boozy celebration, Max hires an oompah band. But when one of the members from the band turns up dead, it’s up to Max to solve the murder before the festivities are ruined.
Adding to the brewing trouble, Candy, Max’s friend, is acting suspicious… Secrets from her past are fermenting under the surface, and Max must uncover the truth to prove her friend’s innocence. Making matters worse, Jake’s snooty ex-fiancée shows up in town for an art gallery opening, and she’ll be nothing but a barrel of trouble for Max.
The Big Thrill spent some time with award-winning author Joyce Tremel discussing her latest mystery, A ROOM WITH A BREW: