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.
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:
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:
If you haven’t already discovered how much fun a couple of baby boomer amateur sleuths can be, it’s time to find out. Check out Susan Santangelo’s latest novel, DIETING CAN BE MURDER.
The story begins when Carol Andrews notices that she’s gained a few extra pounds during her second honeymoon with her husband, Jim. She joins Tummy Trimmers, a new, holistic approach to weight loss, but her plan is interrupted by another group member, who collapses on Carol and dies, right after completing a meditation exercise.
Carol and Jim Andrews are the stars of the Baby Boomer Mystery Series. Jim, a retired executive from a major New York City public relations company, has been married to Carol for more than 35 years and they have two adult children. Jim now writes a column for the weekly newspaper in their hometown of Fairport, CT—but Carol is the real amateur sleuth.
“She’s very approachable and a good listener, so people tell her the darndest things,” Santangelo says. “She’s very curious—some people even call her nosy. She may ask you a lot of questions about your job, so be careful what you tell her.”
Basically, Carol and Jim are really just an ordinary long-married couple of a “certain” age who happen to become involved in solving mysteries. So when the evidence points to murder at Tummy Trimmers, the ever-curious Carol can’t resist adding sleuthing to her personal weight loss routine.
Sofie Kelly took a roundabout path to becoming the New York Times bestselling author of the Magical Cats mysteries.
“I was a young adult author first, but I was a voracious reader of mysteries—everything from cozies to suspense,” she says.
Even while she was publishing books for teens, she was working on multiple mysteries, most notably the Second Chance Cat mystery series she writes as Sofie Ryan.
Sofie’s books add a new twist to the cat mystery. Her feline sleuths, Owen and Hercules, have a knack for solving crime that is literally magical. “The series brings together a lot of my favorite things,” she says. “I’m a cat person. I like small towns. I like the idea of a little magic in life—although I’d probably faint if I saw a cat walk through a wall.”
Since every cat lover knows cats are a little bit magical, Sofie didn’t have to look far for the supernatural abilities she attributes to her mischievous crime-solvers. “Every cat owner has a story about their cat ending up somewhere unexpected. It didn’t seem like that big a stretch to suggest maybe there’s something magical about the way a cat can seemingly disappear when you’ve only turned your head for a second.”
Jean Harrington is an established author in murder mystery writing. Her tongue-in-cheek cozy mysteries, published by Carina Press and Camel Press, are a must-have beach item this summer. Harrington took some time to talk to me about her latest book, MURDER ON PEA PIKE, a mystery thriller with a witty twist.
In a break from Harrington’s Murders by Design series set in Florida, MURDER ON PEA PIKE, the first in her Listed and Lethal Series, is inspired by a country girl moving to a big city and trying to establish herself in a new life. Unlikely hero Honey Ingersoll is trying to pull herself out of poverty. Her effort and failure mirrors her attempts to solve the mysteries she encounters, but in eventually solving them, Honey unravels more of her own problems.
“It’s pretty much a given that readers of mystery-thrillers are also fans of puzzles. So with Honey Ingersoll as the unlikely sleuth, the question isn’t only ‘who dunnit’ but also: how can a girl like Honey possibly solve the crime? Watching her do so, against the odds, is a big part of her appeal,” Harrington says.
Honey relocates to Eureka Falls, a fictional town in Arkansas, giving Harrington the creative freedom to invent her setting against the familiar backdrop of a great natural landscape and traditional American values. Honey snags a job with realtor Sam Ridley, but is Ridley everything he seems? During the sale of an abandoned warehouse, Honey encounters her first crime—murder. This marks the first in a series of murders and surrounding mysteries that Honey must unravel.
Born into the wealthy Simpson family, free-spirited Willow is determined to make her own way in life. Cooking is her one true love, and she is content to keep it that way. Romance has never been on her agenda, but she suddenly finds herself in the middle of a deliciously decadent love triangle. With two gorgeous men vying for her attention, she vows to keep her distance from both, but the tantalizing chemistry is hard to ignore.
Unfortunately, it seems that someone wants to get rid of Willow, making her already tricky situation that much more difficult. One crazy night changes everything, and Willow’s life is turned upside down. Between thwarting her own murder plot, keeping her divinely tasty admirers at bay, and trying to stay on the good side of her finicky cat, Omelet, Willow’s plate is full. With far too many cooks in the kitchen, will she be able to stay alive long enough to figure out who wants to kill her?
Author Heidi Renee Mason spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, LOVE AT FIRST CREPE:
The Agatha-Award winning Food Lovers Village Mysteries return with Treble at the Jam Fest.
Erin Murphy, manager of Murphy’s Mercantile (aka the Merc), is tuning up for Jewel Bay’s annual Jazz Festival. Between keeping the Merc’s shelves stocked with Montana’s tastiest local fare and hosting the festival’s kick-off concert, Erin has her hands full.
Discord erupts when jazz guitarist Gerry Martin is found dead on the rocks above the Jewel River. The one-time international sensation had fallen out of sync with festival organizers, students, and performers. Was his death an accident—or did someone even the score?
Despite the warning signs to not get involved, Erin investigates. And when the killer attacks, she orchestrates her efforts into one last crescendo, hoping to avoid a deadly finale.
Award-winning author, Leslie Budewitz, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest Food Lovers Village Mystery, TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST:
While off to a promising start, the weekend quickly goes awry as murder interrupts the fun and the hostess is accused of the shocking crime. Izzy quickly realizes it is up to her to save her innocent friend and bring the murderer to light.
Keen intuition and quick wit are Izzy’s only tools. She must use them to find the dark truth before the killer brings her investigation to a dead stop…
The Big Thrill recently had the opportunity to discuss THE GIRLS’ WEEKEND MURDER with author, Lynn McPherson:
When Elaine’s housekeeper and crackpot filthy rich cousin descend on Giulia and demand she find out who’s trying to steal sweet, fragile Elaine’s family business out from under her, that’s a different story. They want DI to provide Tarot readings, ghost hunting sessions, and even an exorcism.
Ghost hunting? There are apps for that. Tarot readings? Experts in the skill are right across the street. Exorcisms? Having a priest for a brother-in-law comes in handy. Giulia plunges into a crash course in all things supernatural, convinced everything happening to Elaine is stagecraft.
Except when it isn’t. Giulia’s about to discover a new dimension to sleuthing, if she can survive attempted murder long enough to see through the web of lies around her client.
Former nun-turned-author, Alice Loweecey, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest cozy mystery, THE CLOCK STRIKES NUN:
Lacy Marie Crocker’s whimsical pet couture has gained a following in New Orleans’s cozy Garden District, and word of mouth has traveled all the way to her favorite fashion designer, Annie Lane. Lacy’s thrilled when Annie schedules a private session at her home to discuss a companion line for her evening wear, but when Lacy arrives for the appointment, she enters the kitchen to two mewling Siamese cats–and one very dead Annie.
Lacy takes the kittens home to care for them until they can be properly claimed by Annie’s family or friends, but after a busy day of work, she returns home to find them missing. And when Lacy learns the cats are set to inherit Annie’s fortune, she begins to wonder if the killer was after the kittens all along. Now Lacy will stop at nothing to save the Siamese and find justice for Annie–if the killer doesn’t sink his claws into her first.
Luckily, Lacy has the help of handsome NOLA PD homicide detective Jack Oliver to help her catch the cat-napper before its too late in Cat Got Your Cash, the endearing second Kitty Couture mystery from Julie Chase.
CAT GOT YOUR CASH author, Julie Chase, sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest novel:
Philomela Nightingale visits her sister in the town of Saltaire. While coping with a thieving museum volunteer and a charlatan psychic, the two women become involved with an identity theft, a hit-and-run car accident, and a murder. Will Philomela’s powers of observation and intuition be strong enough for her to help the police solve these serious puzzles?
The Big Thrill had a chance to speak with author Benni Chisholm about SHOWMAN OR SHAMAN:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope they enjoy light entertainment and feel good after finishing the book. If they glean a bit of new information, that is a bonus.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
It will provide pleasant, escape reading while the reader also solves the puzzle of whodunit. Hopefully tid-bits of new information will be passed on to the reader.
Was the strange email her husband received from the fictional detective in their mystery series a threat? Did the killer mistake the woman shot in the library for Alicia or the victim’s twin sister?
Cat vs. Dog . . .
After Sneaky goes missing from the library, will he turn up before a young girl becomes ill with worry over his disappearance? And will he return in time to outsmart Fido by being first to find the perpetrator’s smoking gun?
Alicia is worried . . .
While waiting for the killer’s next move, Alicia has other concerns. An old flame of John’s is in town and her friend, Gilly, has adopted the role of Miss Marple to aid her sheriff boyfriend in his investigation.
When all clues point to one of her co-workers, Alicia joins Gilly in searching for the answers to the mystery.
Will they survive . . . . or is their ending written in stone?
Author Debbie De Louise discussed her latest novel, WRITTEN IN STONE, with The Big Thrill:
By Wendy Tyson
Canadian author Vicki Delany last sat down with The Big Thrill in December, during the release of her holiday-themed mystery We Wish You a Murderous Christmas. This time Delany is back with ELEMENTARY, SHE READ, the first in a delightful new series featuring Gemma Doyle, the owner of a bookstore in Cape Cod that specializes in all things Sherlock Holmes. Like the great fictional detective, Gemma, a transplanted Englishwoman, uses heightened powers of deduction to root out evil intentions and solve murders.
I had the pleasure of talking with Delany about her new Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series, her thoughts on the cozy genre, and the importance of networking for writers.
ELEMENTARY, SHE READ is a fresh, smart, engaging whodunit with an interesting premise: an amateur sleuth (Gemma Doyle) not only owns the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium but also has impressive detective skills in her own right. What was the inspiration for this new series?
There isn’t much hotter in popular culture these days than Sherlock Holmes; people can’t seem to get enough of him, so when I was looking for an inspiration for a new series, I intended to create a fairly traditional cozy about a woman who owns a speciality bookshop. I planned to throw in bits of Sherlock-ania and references to the modern pastiche novels as well. But almost as soon as I began writing, the Gemma Doyle became Sherlock-like. And that’s been an enormous amount of fun.
When I was a child, we had a cat named Boots, a shy gray-and-white girl who used to read with me. Her whole head would move from left to right as she scanned each line, and when she got to the bottom of the right-hand page, she’d look up to tell me to turn the page. If I started to turn it too soon, she would stop me with a paw. As you can imagine, I have a soft spot for cat stories.
PURR M FOR MURDER, the first of T.C. (Toni) LoTempio’s Cat Rescue mystery series, is a worthy addition to the cat mystery genre, with big-hearted sympathetic characters and a lovable sleuthing feline. It’s a playful romp published by Crooked Lane and written by a cat lover who, along with her uncredited partner, Rocco, also pens the Nick and Nora mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime.
Asked about her writing journey and how she came to be a mystery writer, Toni says her lifelong love of mysteries was sparked when she read her first Nancy Drew mystery, The Secret in the Old Attic, at the age of ten.
“I’ve always loved making up stories,” she says, “ever since I was little. I’d read Superman comics and if I didn’t like the end I’d rewrite it! My tastes in reading have always gravitated toward mystery/true crime. I devoured Erle Stanley Gardner and Agatha Christie early on—so I guess you could say it was a natural progression.”
By Dawn Ius
After taking his exams for the New Jersey Bar back in 1929, Harry I. Heller set off on a hitchhiking cross-country adventure, journaling his escapades in a notebook that was published posthumously a few years ago by his daughter, bestselling cozy mystery and romance author, Nancy J. Cohen.
Thumbs Up was not only a thoughtful way for Cohen to help her father’s publishing dream come true, but also a tribute to what she says is his excellent writing. Cohen honors her father again with excerpts from another of his travel stories, which are peppered throughout the thirteenth book in her Bad Hair Day mystery series, FACIALS CAN BE FATAL.
“I always try to look for a historical angle for each of the books because I think that adds a lot of depth,” she says. “In this case, the journal was real—I pulled bits from my father’s 1935 trip to Florida with friends.”
Of course, the book also includes all of Cohen’s usual suspects—salon owner and amateur sleuth Marla Vail, her police detective husband Dalton, a full cast of characters with murderous means and motive, and enough twists and turns to earn you a well-deserved spot at the spa. (Though, Cohen suggests avoiding “body treatments that have nothing to do with herbal scrubs and hot rock massages…”)
By George Ebey
Author Cynthia Kuhn’s latest book, THE ART OF VANISHING, brings us the next installment in her Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries series.
When Professor Lila Maclean is sent to interview celebrated author and notorious cad Damon Von Tussel, he disappears before her very eyes. The English department is thrown into chaos by the news, as Damon is supposed to headline Stonedale University’s upcoming Arts Week. The chancellor makes it clear that he expects Lila to locate the writer and set events back on track immediately. But someone appears to have a different plan: strange warnings are received, valuable items go missing, and a series of dangerous incidents threaten the lives of Stonedale’s guests. After her beloved mother, who happens to be Damon’s ex, rushes onto campus and into harm’s way, Lila has even more reason to bring the culprit to light before anything—or anyone—else vanishes.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Kuhn to learn more about this thrilling new story.
When ex-teen star Maizie Albright returns to her Southern hometown of Black Pine, Georgia, she hoped to rid herself of Hollywood tabloid and reality show hell for a new career as a private investigator. Instead, Hollyweird follows her home. Maizie’s costar is crushing, but now for her gumshoe boss. Her stage-monster mother still demands screen time. Her latest rival wants her kicked off the set, preferably back to a California prison.
By entangling herself in a missing person’s case, she must reprise her most famous role. The job will demand a performance of a lifetime. But this time, the stakes are real and may prove deadly.
Author Larissa Reinhart recently took some time to sit down with The Big Thrill and discuss her new novel:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
15 MINUTES introduces the Maize Albright Star Detective series. The heroine, Maizie Albright, is an ex-teen and reality star who’s trying a career makeover as a detective. Unfortunately, her sleuthing background comes from starring in the TV show Julia Pinkerton, Teen Detective. Maizie has a big learning curve and her chosen mentor, Wyatt Nash of Nash Security Solutions, is not a willing teacher.
By J. H. Bográn
Cats were revered as gods in ancient Egypt. Although we can’t know if cats realize those days are gone, some cats still get special treatment. If you don’t believe me, just ask Rocco. Rocco is not only the quintessential muse for author Toni Lotempio, but also this particular feline became a character in the Nick and Nora series for Berkley Prime Crime.
Nick and Nora aren’t just pussyfooting around this time as they deal with a missing person’s case and murder. While catering a gala for the Cruz Museum, Nora Charles agrees to look into the disappearance of director Violet Crenshaw’s niece, a case previously undertaken by her frisky feline friend Nick’s former owner, a private eye whose whereabouts are also currently unknown.
CRIME AND CATNIP is the third book in the series, and TBT had the opportunity to catch up with the cat-loving author.
What is different/new with Nora in this adventure?
Well, since Nora’s old college crush, Leroy Samms, is now in Cruz there’s a bit of romantic conflict there since she’s dating FBI guy Daniel Corleone. Also, she’s a bit more focused on this mystery because of it’s possible tie to her cat’s owner. The reporter in her would like to solve the mystery of his strange disappearance, and the cat owner in her wants resolution about feline Nick’s ownership.
By Wendy Tyson
National bestselling author Amanda Lee crafts another seamless mystery in BETTER OFF THREAD, her tenth novel in the Embroidery Mystery series. The series follows Marcy Singer, the smart, resourceful owner of The Seven-Year Stitch, an embroidery specialty store in quaint Tallulah Falls, Oregon.
This time, Marcy takes a break from her shop during the holidays to play elf while her friend volunteers to be Santa at a local hospital. Celebrations sour when the hospital’s administrator is murdered and evidence points to Santa—and it’s up to Marcy to unravel the truth before the real killer strikes again.
Leerecently sat down with The Big Thrill to chat about her latest novel and her incredible journey to publication.
Congratulations on the publication of BETTER OFF THREAD. No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
Thank you so much! There are a few new characters introduced in this book, and one of them in particular makes Marcy pretty nervous.
By Wendy Tyson
Holiday-themed murder mysteries have long been popular with readers. The magic of the season coupled with the nostalgia of favorite rituals contrast with criminal behavior and evil intent. Vicki Delany’s newest novel, WE WISH YOU A MURDEROUS CHRISTMAS, is a suspenseful and charming addition to this sub-genre. The novel is set in the fictional town of Rudolph, New York, where Christmastime is a year-long occurrence and even yuletide cheer is no deterrent to murder.
Delany recently sat down with The Big Thrill to share more about her latest novel and her prolific writing career.
Congratulations on the publication of WE WISH YOU A MURDEROUS CHRISTMAS. No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
Christmas celebrations in Rudolph are threatened by a forecast of melting temperatures and icy rain, and Merry Wilkinson, the protagonist, makes a decision about her love life.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Nothing but a good time! WE WISH YOU A MURDEROUS CHRISTMAS is a holiday cozy, and intended to bring a spark of laughter into the reader’s life. No serious topics, no psychological insights, no emotional trauma—just a fun read with a great setting and entertaining characters, for people who like a bit of mayhem and murder in their holiday festivities. And don’t we all, sometimes?
Was there anything new you discovered, or surprised you, as you wrote this book?
I created an entire rationale as to why Rudolph, New York, reinvented itself as Christmas Town. And what the neighboring town of Muddle Harbor has done to try to combat the success of their (supposed) rival. I just had fun with this book: Christmas is, in many ways, a rather silly time isn’t it?
With the fireplace crackling, the tree twinkling, and the carols humming, few things in life are as picture perfect as Christmas in Maine—until murder dampens the holiday spirit. It must be something in the eggnog . . .Eggnog Murder brings three holiday mystery novellas set in Maine by one of America’s most beloved cozy authors, along with two exciting newcomers.
One of the authors of EGGNOG MURDER, Leslie Meier, took some time recently to sit down with The Big Thrill:
Was there anything new you discovered, or surprised you, as you wrote this book?
I love writing novellas! I thought it would be fun because my novels are always too short and my short stories always too long. Following the Goldilocks Principle, novellas were just right.
No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
None of us read each other’s stories until we received the galleys, but—no surprise—they are all quite different.
By Wendy Tyson
Leslie Budewitz cooks up a tantalizing mystery with her latest in the Spice Shop series, KILLING THYME. Set in Seattle’s lush Pike Place Market, KILLING THYME is a feast for the senses—with a murderous twist. Spice Shop owner and amateur sleuth Pepper Reece discovers that a Market newbie is a friend who disappeared years ago. When this friend is murdered days later, Pepper is determined to find the killer, only her search for the truth could have deadly consequences.
Leslie recently sat down with The Big Thrill to chat about the cozy genre, the marriage of food and fiction, and her (excellent!) advice for aspiring authors.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of KILLING THYME, the third of the Spice Shop mysteries, a series Suspense Magazine calls “Pure enjoyment.” Please tell us something about KILLING THYME that is not on the back cover.
Readers will learn about salt pigs, art cars, ghost nets, and a troubled time in Seattle’s history. They’ll discover a dozen new recipes using thyme, and find out Pepper’s real name.
Setting is an important aspect of your novels. You write another popular series, the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in a fictional town in your home state of Montana. The Spice Shop Mysteries, on the other hand, are set in Seattle. Why did you choose big-city Seattle? What have been the challenges of choosing a real-life locale as the backdrop for your books?
The urban cozy is less common than its small-town sibling, but I love exploring a city through the cozy lens, because to me, the focus of a cozy is the community. Cities all have communities within the community, and the Pike Place Market is the perfect example. Imagine a year-round farmers’ market, 200 artists and craftspeople who rent day stalls, 200 owner-operated shops and services, and 100 restaurants, plus 350 residents—all on nine acres. The Market is a microcosm of Seattle, as well as its stomach and a key part of its history and landscape. I fell in love with the Market and the city as a college student nearly 40 years ago, and when I decided to start a second series, it seemed perfect.
Debut author Alexis Gordon hits the right notes with MURDER IN G MAJOR. Stranded without luggage or money in the Irish countryside, African-American classical musician Gethsemane Brown accepts a less-than-ideal position turning a group of rowdy schoolboys into an award-winning orchestra. The perk? Housesitting a lovely cliff-side cottage. The catch? The ghost of the cottage’s murdered owner haunts the place. Falsely accused of killing his wife (and himself), he begs Gethsemane to clear his name so he can rest in peace.
Alexis Gordon won her first writing prize in the 6th grade. After establishing her medical career in El Paso, she returned to writing fiction. Her other interests—the symphony, art collecting, embroidery, and ghost stories—are star attractions in her novels.
MURDER IN G MAJOR features a small town in Ireland. Do you have a special connection to the area?
I am a Hibernophile. I love all things Irish—the music, the pubs, the whiskey, the accent, the language, the landscape. I visited the eastern part of Ireland several years ago and I’m returning to visit the southwestern parts this month, a present to myself to celebrate the publication of my novel.
Sounds as if Gethsemane Brown might be taking a road trip in an upcoming novel. I understand you love descriptions that transport you into the story. Can we expect to find your Irish town becoming a character in your books?
I do love stories where the place is as much a character as the people. Where would Alice be without Wonderland? Yes, I see my village as a character. I want readers to feel as if they are actually in Dunmullach with Gethsemane, O’Reilly, Grennan, and the others.
When I slip my writer hat off and slip on my reader one (which isn’t as often as I’d like) I enjoy losing myself in a cozy mystery. Give me a country house, or a village, or some other tight knit community with a murderer running loose and I’m a happy girl. So I’m delighted to be interviewing Joyce about her Brew series.
Is the Allegheny Brew House based on an actual brewery?
It’s a figment of my imagination. In the first book, To Brew or Not to Brew, Max buys a building in which to open her brewpub, that had been part of the old Steel City Brewing Co.—which is fictional, too! There really is an Iron City Brewing and I lifted a bit of their history and gave it to Steel City.
And is the brewing festival based on any festival you’ve been to?
Pittsburgh has a lot of festivals, but I don’t think we’ve ever had one with brews and burgers. We seem to keep the food festivals and the beer festivals separate. I’m not sure why.
I’m not either. In the UK we’d make sure the two were together.
What inspired you to start writing crime stories? Was it your career as a police secretary?
I’ve always liked to write. I was jotting down stories well before my part-time job as a police secretary. In seventh grade—this was back in about 1969? (I don’t do math—I’m a writer!)—we had to compose our autobiographies and extend them to the year 2000. I may have had the writing bug before that, but that’s the first example I can think of. It was a wonderful piece of fiction, by the way.
By J. H. Bográn
There´s an old Frank Sinatra song called “Love and Marriage” that claims the two go together like a horse and carriage. I, for one, find the same kind of link between books and coffee. They make a perfect blend of adrenaline rush and suspense. Waiting for your next cup of java is Lynn Cahoon’s latest entry in her Tourist Trap mystery series. She delivers the goods, which goes equally well with tea in this case.
Best-selling author Cahoon sat down with The Big Thrill to talk about TEA CUPS AND CARNAGE, the second novel in the series to feature progatonist Jill Gardner.
What is the new novel about?
The quaint coastal town of South Cove, California, is all abuzz about the opening of a new specialty shop, Tea Hee. But as Coffee, Books, and More owner Jill Gardner is about to find out, there’s nothing cozy about murder . . .
How did Jill Gardner come into the picture?
She’s the me I wanted to be; the woman who took a chance when she wasn’t happy with her life. I always seemed to let things happen. At the time, I was in the process of a divorce that I had initiated. I found the house that I modeled Miss Emily’s home after and South Cove was born from there.
What can we expect from her in this new adventure?
In TEA CUPS AND CARNAGE, Jill has to deal with a lot on her plate, including a new business moving into town that could be competition. When a body is found at the no-tell motel on the coastal highway out of town, she has to figure out if her newest business member of South Cove is not only a former beauty queen, but also a murderer.
By George Ebey
This month, author Marla Cooper brings us TERROR IN TAFFET, the first installment in her Destination Wedding mystery series.
Kelsey McKenna thinks she’d planned out every detail of her client’s destination wedding in San Miguel de Allende. But what she hadn’t planned on was a bridesmaid dropping dead in the middle of the ceremony. When the bride’s sister is arrested for murder, the mother of the bride demands that Kelsea fix the matter at once. Although Kelsea is pretty sure investigating a murder isn’t in her contract, crossing the well-connected Mrs. Abemathy could be a career-killer. Before she can leave Mexico and get back to planning weddings, Kelsey will have to deal with stubborn detectives, late-night death threats, and guests who didn’t even RSVP.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Cooper to learn about her work and what goes into writing a good cozy mystery.
What first drew you to writing mysteries?
I often blame my early addiction to Nancy Drew, who taught me at a young age that girl detectives get to drive roadsters and date college guys. And there’s also the fact that I was born in October so I love things that are dark and ghoulish. But if I’m really psychoanalyzing myself, it’s the justice aspect of it. There’s something so satisfying about piecing together the clues, figuring out whodunit, and bringing the bad guys to justice.
Tell us about your main character, Kelsey McKenna.
Kelsey is a destination wedding planner, and it’s up to her to make sure her clients’ weddings go off without a hitch, all while wrangling errant wedding guests, petulant bridesmaids, and demanding mothers-of-the-bride. She’s organized, resourceful, and good at improvising, which comes in handy when anything goes wrong. And at a wedding, something always seems to go wrong.
She doesn’t set out to be a sleuth, but then one of the bridesmaids drops dead in the middle of a wedding in San Miguel de Allende. And when a member of the wedding party is arrested for the murder, Kelsey can’t help but get involved.
By Basil Sands
THE CALAMITY CAFÉ is an appetizing cozy mystery that leaves your mouth watering for great cooking, even as you’re shocked by what people will do to each other. And even better—there are recipes included in the back! As an avid cook, I will definitely be trying some out.
Gayle Leeson is an author who makes an imprint with her witty storytelling, compelling mystery thrills, and some seriously delicious-looking recipes. She also writes the Embroidery Mystery series as Amanda Lee, and as Gayle Trent for the Daphne Martin Cake Mystery series and the Myrtle Crumb Mystery series.
Leeson lives in Virginia with her family and is having a blast writing the Down South Café Mystery series. I had a chance to catch up with her this month for an article in The Big Thrill.
So, which Gayle is the real you?
Although my real name is Gayle Trent, I suppose I’m all of those Gayles. At least, sometimes I wish I had a couple more of me since I wear so many hats in a day. I’m a writer, of course, but also a blogger, a new columnist for RT Book Reviews Magazine, a mom, a wife, and I’m owned by pets who are pretty demanding.
How did you get into writing?
I’d read a book that was formulaic and predictable, and then I wrote a short story to parody that book and others similar to it. I allowed my college English teachers to read it, and they told me I had real talent. That little bit of encouragement was all it took!
Are the recipes CALAMITY CAFÉ your own?
Some were passed down through the family. Others were contributed by readers. I think it’s always fun to get readers invested in your stories. The readers whose recipes were accepted were acknowledged with their recipe(s) and received a small honorarium.
A murder trial inspired Lynn Cahoon to write her first book, a thriller. She’d been part of the trial and wanted to fictionalize the story. But that draft got put aside after just four chapters.
She tried a young adult novel, then a cozy, and a romance. Each time, she stopped after four chapters, feeling as though she were writing the wrong story.
“The truth was, I needed to plow through the soggy middle and trust that I would be okay on the other side,” Cahoon says.
Her first published book was a romance in 2012, and her Bull Rider series is still out there, featuring cowboys and the fictional town of Shawnee. But she still wanted to write a cozy mystery.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until she was diagnosed and treated with breast cancer that she had enough time to read—and write. She grabbed books from the library with mystery stickers. Back then, she didn’t realize there were different sub genres of mysteries, but once she found Susan McBride’s Dropout Debutant series, she fell in love with the cozy world.
“After seeing some success with my romance, I picked up the cozy I’d started earlier, finished the book, and started querying,” Cahoon says. “I didn’t get an agent with that book, but I did find a publisher, Kensington. Nine books later in the Tourist Trap series, I am still loving the fact I get to write about South Cove, and Jill and the gang.”
A STORY TO KILL is the first in a new series featuring Cat Latimer.
So, what makes this series different?
“It takes what I love about writing cozies—small town, quirky characters—and sets the story in a new town, new state and amid new problems,” Cahoon says. “The other difference is I’ve been given permisson to make it as sexy or romantic as I’d like. So the book is kind of a mix between a good small town romance and a cozy mystery.”
The Read ’Em and Eat cozy mystery series by Terrie Farley Moran combines two of my favorite things, great food and great books. It’s an iconic cozy series, with a charming setting, lovable eccentric characters who form nearly familial bonds, and a heroine who engages in amateur sleuth-ery for generally selfless reasons.
The third and most recent in the series, READ TO DEATH, centers on best friends Sassy Cabot and Bridgy Mayfield, who have relocated from New York to Florida’s Gulf Coast to open a bookstore café. Chef Miguel’s mouthwatering creations provide the proverbial icing on the metaphorical cake. You know a culinary mystery is good when just reading it makes you hungry.
A nationally bestselling author, Moran is the winner of the Agatha Award Best First Novel, and several of her short stories have been short-listed for other major awards. The only thing she likes better than grappling with mysteries, she says, is playing games with, and reading to, her seven grandchildren. Please join me in welcoming her to The Big Thrill.
Congratulations on your new book, Terrie! And thank you for taking the time to talk to us about it. Why don’t we start with a little bit about your writing journey and how you came to be a mystery writer?
All my life I planned that “one day” I would do two things—join a gym and write mysteries. When 9/11 reinforced that the only day that truly belongs to me is today, I was fortunate enough to be able to leave a great career, pick up some odd jobs along the way, and focus on writing mystery short stories and cozy novels.
I know your readers are glad you took that leap. You know, I’ve always thought that one of the most interesting aspects of being a writer is that each book gives you an opportunity to learn something new. What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever done when researching a book?
I paddled a kayak on the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers Beach. Sassy and Bridgy go “suspect hunting” in a kayak in the first Read ’Em and Eat book and I wanted to get the feel of it.