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.
By Cathy Clamp
What could be better after a long day on the slopes than a hot bowl of soup? It was the inspiration behind a restaurant in Snowflake, Vermont that Lucky Jamieson’s parents opened. After their death, Lucky took over the shop, along with the mysteries that seem to boil over among the patrons as hot as the soup she serves. In the second book of the series, discovery of a Revolutionary War skeleton is trumped only by the discovery of a murdered auto mechanic, but when the Mayor of the town goes missing, Lucky is forced to get involved in all three mysteries, much to the frustration of the police chief. But can she unravel the facts before she becomes the killer’s next target? This clever series not only offers delicious intrigue, but includes delicious recipes for readers to get in the spirit of the book.
The Big Thrill sat down with author Connie Archer to find out more about the book and what Lucky will be serving up next:
By Basil Sands
Shelter manager and pet rescuer Lauren Vancouver once again takes on the role of amateur sleuth when there’s a murder on a film set…
Has Hollywood gone to the dogs? Pet rescuer Lauren Vancouver is observing production on a new movie called Sheba’s Story. The title character—a miniature white poodle—is played by many similar-looking poodles, and to make sure no animals are harmed, Lauren’s friend, veterinarian Carlie Stellan, and Grant, a handsome representative from the American Humane Association, are on location. But when the film’s director is killed in a suspicious hit-and-run after arguing with Carlie about animal safety, it’s up to Lauren to clear her friend’s name and catch a killer before someone else ends up in oodles of deadly trouble.
By Gary Kriss
Spring fever, coupled with a full moon, arrives in tiny Park County, Tennessee. It induces the well-named madness in its residents and visitors alike. At a festival to honor ramps, a pungent member of the onion/garlic family, the party is disrupted when a potato launched by a cannon strikes, and apparently kills, the unpopular game warden, known as Hairy Rags.
The fourth in the “Quilted Mystery” series featuring Tennessee Sheriff Tony Abernathy and his wife Theo, a dedicated quilter.
THE REST AREA MURDER is the second book in L.D. Knorr’s ‘RV Mystery Series’ featuring recently retired robbery/homicide detective Hank Moran and his wife Helen. The book becomes available this month.
Please give the readers an elevator synopsis of THE REST AREA MURDER.
Recently retired robbery/homicide detective Hank Moran and his wife Helen are once again back on the road in their new Bounder motorhome. Hank’s decision to stop for a road map at an Indiana rest area starts a series of events that greatly endangers the lives of both Hank and Helen.
By Brian Knight
When Lucky Jamieson inherits her parents’ soup shop, By the Spoonful, she realizes it’s time to take stock of her life. Does she really want to run a restaurant? But her life decisions are moved to the back burner when an icy blonde tourist is found frozen to death behind the soup shop and her chef is arrested. The only way she can save her employee and her business is to find out herself who iced the tourist.
Connie Archer’s new novel, A SPOONFUL OF MURDER, from Berkley Prime Crime, has just been released and is now a national bestseller. She was kind enough to answer some questions about her cozy mystery story.
By J. H. Bográn
In Jean Harrington’s new book THE MONET MURDERS, interior decorator Deva Dunne never dreamed she’d see a Monet hanging on someone’s dining room wall. Then she snags a client with two Monet seascapes. Her thrill lasts until she finds one of the paintings missing, cut from its frame, and the cook shot dead.
Rough-around-the edges, but gorgeous all-around Lieutenant Victor Rossi insists Deva leave the sleuthing to the police. But what could it hurt to come up with a list of suspects? Like the owner of the Monets, his trophy wife, and their frequent guests. Even the cook’s husband is suspect. Then Deva finds another victim, clutching a very strange set of clues.
Desperate to save her business amid all the negative publicity, Deva helps Rossi investigate. And when he needs advice decorating his bedroom, she just might have found a client for life. Unless the killer gets to her first.
By Dawn Ius
When the woman who ruined your life gets murdered, you’re going to need an alibi.
Dotsy Lamb should know. In her fourth adventure, DEATH OF A SECOND WIFE, author Maria Hudgin’s series character must move beyond her personal pain and do what’s best for her family – her children, her grandchildren, and even her ex-husband.
“Dotsy has grown more in this book than in all of the first three put together,” says Hudgins. “At age sixty, she had to start a new career as a college professor, and her ego was shattered. How could she trust anyone again?”
She’s forced to learn quickly, though, because DEATH OF A SECOND WIFE is set in the Swiss Alps, a great place for a murder mystery.
Saving animals and solving murders seem to go paw-in-paw for shelter manager and amateur sleuth Lauren Vancouver. But this time, mixed up in a murder that may close a much-needed new shelter, Lauren will have to keep herself and her critters safe from an unleashed killer.
Much of Linda O. Johnston’s fiction involves animals. The third in the Pet Rescue Mystery series, which is a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne Pet-Sitter mystery series continues in April 2012 with the release of HOUNDS ABOUND from Berkley Prime Crime.
By George Ebey
Mitzi Kelly is the author of The Silver Sleuths Mystery Series which features the adventures of Millie, Trish, and Edna, three friends who find themselves drawn into the world of crime and intrigue as they work to solve baffling mysteries in their hometown. The first book in the series, CLASSIC REVENGE, was described by SUSPENSE MAGAZINE as “Crime investigation meets the Golden Girls! This book has it all.”
Now Mitzi is back with book two, DEADLY POLICY.
When a sudden rash of stolen cars brings Millie’s daughter under suspicion for conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, Millie convinces her two best friends, Trish and Edna, to help her find out who is trying to frame Michelle. Knowing the odds are zero that they will be able to discover who the thugs are, Trish and Edna nevertheless go through the motion of investigating, hoping Millie will feel productive in helping her daughter while the police do the real detective work.
By L.J. Sellers
In THE SCARLET PEPPER, White House gardener Casey Calhoun solves a double mystery: Who is tampering with the garden? And who killed the investigative reporter? Author Dorothy St. James draws on years of government work, as well several visits to the White House, to create this richly detailed and engaging series.
“One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my work as an urban planner is to develop the setting of a story the same way I’d develop the main character,” says St. James. “A community is as alive as a person. Cities, towns, and villages have quirks, unique personalities, and as rich of a back story as any character in a book.”
St. James writes in both the mystery and romance genres and has been nominated for wards such as Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, National Reader’s Choice Award, and The Romance Reviews Today Perfect 10! Award.
Interior designer Deva Dunne’s latest project comes to a screeching halt when blood on the carpet leads her to the body of her client, an exotic dancer with a mysterious past. But the murdered woman is not the only resident of the posh beachfront condominium with secrets, and investigating officer Lieutenant Victor Rossi considers them all suspects.
Though wary of working in the killer’s midst, Deva continues decorating the unit for the new owner. When she stumbles upon clues that might help crack the case, she can’t resist doing a little digging of her own, despite Rossi’s orders to quit meddling. Now, she’s juggling the investigation, her career and sexy neighbor Simon Yaeger, who seems interested in more than her etchings.
The fifth Dulcie Schwartz feline mystery: Could a missing book be haunted? Dulcie Schwartz doesn’t want to think so, but ever since it disappeared from the university, things have gone from bad to worse – one of her colleagues accused of homicide, and another revealed as an impostor. To top it all off, both the ghost cat Mr Grey and the kitten Esmé seem to have switched their allegiance to her boyfriend. Deprived of feline assistance, Dulcie must uncover the truth by herself, or else find herself on the hook for the theft – and murder.
By Karen Harper
FBI Special Agent Taylor Jones has made it his mission to save those in harm’s way by any means necessary—including employing psychic agents like Desiree “Dez” Lincoln, who can communicate with the disembodied spirits of the dead. Taylor is haunted by his own ghost, his kid sister, gone missing at age six. For a quarter of a century he has been tortured by her loss and the mystery of her disappearance.
When Dez is seriously wounded, Taylor can no longer hide his feelings for her. Getting involved could spell disaster for both of them—not to mention those who rely on them for help—but once Dez lays her hands on him, he can’t resist the fierce attraction. But after giving in to his desires, Taylor pulls back, and Dez strikes out on her own.
By J. H. Bogran
Weddings always make Marla Shore shed a tear of joy, especially when she attends her friend Jill’s affair as a member of the bridal party. Marla’s own nuptials are weeks away, and she’s been busy juggling bickering relatives, building a new house with her fiancé, and expanding her hair salon.
The South Florida stylist is following her To Do list just fine until an unexpected event unravels her carefully laid plans. At Jill’s wedding reception, Marla discovers the matron of honor—Jill’s sister Torrie—dead under the cake table, a knife embedded in her chest.
Orlando Coppersmith returns from WWI having lost all he holds dear. A commission to look into an officer’s disappearance holds out the chance of new direction, but without Jonty beside him, Orlando feels lost.
The trail takes Orlando into the world of the shell-shocked and broken; he despairs at ever finding a solution to the mystery or indeed any meaning to the rest of his life. A chance encounter on the seafront at Cabourg brings new hope and unexpected joy, but will the echoes and aftereffects of the war let Orlando enjoy his second chance?
By Rick Reed
Mississippian Peggy Webb is the bestselling author of almost 70 novels in three genres. She is the recipient of many awards, including the Romantic Times Pioneer Award. Peggy writes the comedic Southern Cousins Mystery Series under her own name and literary fiction as Anna Michaels. Pat Conroy hails THE TENDER MERCY OF ROSES as “astonishing.”
Her newest book, ELVIS IN A TROPICAL DOUBLE TROUBLE, released October 1st, is destined to be a hit with any audience, as “the Valentine gang goes south of the border, and it’s double trouble for mayhem magnet Callie, her 190-pound bombshell cousin Lovie, and Elvis, the King reincarnated as nothin’ but a hound dog. Elvis digs up a bone too fresh to spell anything except murder. Suspicious minds blame gods and ghosts, but Jack, Callie’s hunk’a burnin’ love almost-ex, knows the guilty party is all too human. For once, Callie is determined not to get involved. But when Lovie and Elvis go missing, it’s now or never if she wants to save her cousin and her canine and catch a killer with murder always on his mind.”
By L.J. Sellers
Her interest in the occult started around the same early age as her love of mysteries so it seems only natural that Rochelle Staab would eventually write a paranormal whodunit. Taking it a step further, Staab’s debut is titled WHO DO, VOODOO? and comes with high praise from reviewers and authors alike.
RT REVIEWS says: “The first in the Mind for Murder mystery series set in Los Angeles grabs your attention from the start with creepy tarot cards, voodoo priestesses, and cursed spell books. A fresh and entertaining premise for a new series that is cleverly plotted and executed.”
By Don Helin
In her first Pet Rescue Mystery, Beaglemania, author Linda O. Johnston writes a cozy mystery so compelling that New York Times best-selling author Rebecca Hale says, “Gutsy Lauren Vancouver easily wins over the hearts of animals in need as well as readers. Vancouver is an ardent advocate for homeless pets.” Now the second book in the series, The More the Terrier, is available.
Shelter manager Lauren Vancouver, an ardent advocate for homeless pets, has taught herself a new trick – sleuthing. Now she has a chance to hone her skills as animal hoarding leads to one less human life. When Lauren finds out that her old mentor, Mamie Spelling, is an animal hoarder, no one is more shocked and Lauren jumps to help re-home the cramped critters.
Joelle Charbonneau introduces readers to the roller derby team EstroGenocide in her cozy mystery SKATING OVER THE LINE.
In Charbonneau’s second book of her series, the protagonist, Rebecca, is desperate to sell her inherited roller skating rink in small-town Indian Falls, and—finally—she has a buyer. She can’t wait to head back to Chicago, especially now that her long delinquent father has blown back into town. But Lionel, her large-animal vet boyfriend, thinks she should stay put. And the gang at the Senior Center wants her to track down the thief who’s been hot-wiring rusted-out classic cars. Unable to resist, Rebecca soon has the Sheriff’s Deputy threatening to arrest her for obstruction and strange, scary men threatening her life. Then cars start exploding, with people in them, and Rebecca’s father goes missing. With the help of her Elvis-impersonating grandfather, Rebecca must find the pyromaniac car thief and put a stop to him—before he stops her first.
by L.J. Sellers
When the protagonist is eighty-four, cranky, and has short-term memory loss, telling the story with a sense of humor is a necessity. Author Mike Befeler also throws in some thrills with Senior Moments Are Murder, the third novel in his series featuring Paul Jacobson. Publisher’s Weekly calls Paul a “formidable sleuth” and says, “Mystery fans of all ages will welcome Befeler’s third humorous cozy.” The series has also earned high praise from Mystery Scene magazine and Kirkus Reviews and was a finalist for the Lefty Award for the best humorous mystery of 2009.
Befeler says his best moments as a writer are “when readers send me emails saying that my novel has entertained them, made them laugh, and given them a more positive outlook on aging.” He says his writing influences come from John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday. Befeler adds, “His humor and quirky characters before and after World War II in Monterrey have truly inspired me.” Here, the author tells us more about the series and his writing career in his own words.
Roxie Turner is back in the hot seat when the body of the groom from her latest wedding is pulled from the bay, apparently drowned under questionable circumstances. She’s on the scent to find his killer, but has other things to worry about, like the femme fatale who opened the naughty lingerie shop—and the witch’s former connection to boyfriend, Greg. Things heat up as more people die in Briny Bay, and all from the same wedding party. Is Roxie’s career headed for demise at the same time as her love life?
by John Darrin
Food seems to be the common theme in Julie Hyzy’s writing, and in her life. In fact, Hyzy is Polish for Beef Wellington. (I made that up. It’s really Polish for those disgusting little yellow candy corn things you throw away at Halloween, but Beef Wellington sounds so much more tasteful.)
And, Julie’s books are, if anything, tasteful. In fact, her entire first series of mysteries was food-themed. How else do you account for titles like Eggsecutive Orders and State of the Onion and Hail to the Chef? The series is built around the first female White House chef and the apparent rash of crime that follows breaking the all-male tradition. Fortunately, she can solve a mystery in an entertaining way because Eggsecutive Orders is nominated for the prestigious Barry Award this year, and Julie won it in 2009 for State of the Onion.
After a successful career spent on the cutting edge of technology in the banking industry, Naigle and her husband of 15 years moved inland to the quiet of Southampton County. They now live in a log-sided home on a working goat farm with their two labs and more “kids” than they can count, where Naigle spends her time writing the kind of stories she likes to read.
The White House is more than a hot bed of politics – seems its flowerbeds are full of intrigue. Just ask Dorothy St. James, author of Flowerbed of State.
The premier book in the White House Gardener Mysteries, Flowerbed of State introduces Casey Calhoun, a South Carolina native, who is employed as an assistant gardener with the task of developing an organic gardening program for the White House grounds at the request of the First Lady.