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by Sandra Balzo

a-cup-of-jo.jpg“A mime is a terrible thing to waste. But damned if we shouldn’t take a machine gun to this one.” –Sarah Kingston in A Cup of Jo

Okay, I admit it. It’s a line I’ve been dying to use for years and my newest book, A CUP OF JO, finally gave me the chance. And as the opening, no less.

Not that I have anything against mimes. In fact . . . oh, hell –f course I hate mimes. Who doesn’t? And clowns …

But I digress.

A Cup of Jo is the sixth book in my Maggy Thorsen Mystery Series. The books revolve around “Uncommon Grounds,” a gourmet coffeehouse serving the fictional Brookhills, Wisconsin. In the first book, one of the partners financing Maggy’s new coffee venture is found dead in a pool of skim milk, having been electrocuted by the espresso machine’s frothing wand. (I’d have included a spoiler warning, but is there another way to kill by espresso machine?)

By book six, Maggy has lost yet another partner — this time to natural attrition — as well as the store itself. A freak May snowstorm literally “razed” the roof of the strip mall where the original Uncommon Grounds stood.

Maggy and her new partner, Sarah Kingston — the mime-hater quoted above — are about to re-open in a new location, a historical train station recently revitalized by the creation of a commuter-rail connection between the old depot in Brookhills and the city of Milwaukee, fifteen miles east.

balzo-sandra2.jpgMaggy and Sarah hope the second incarnation of Uncommon Grounds can piggyback the media coverage of Dedication Day for the train’s two terminal points. Always the promoter, Maggy digs deep into her development budget and commissions a giant inflatable Uncommon Grounds coffee cup to billow over the requisite civic speeches.

All seems perfectly poised for the great morning, until Brookhills’ in absentia event manager, JoLynne Penn-Williams, finally makes her appearance on stage – as a corpse in Maggy’s fallen piece de resistance.

And this time I won’t tell you how she died. Buy the book.

Publishers Weekly calls A Cup of Jo “delightful” and adds, “As ever, Maggy’s wit and wisdom help keep the pages turning through this lighthearted cozy.”

“The fast-moving plot,” says Booklist, “makes the most of the author’s quirky characters and will have readers wondering if Maggy will ever be able to make a go of it in the coffee business, but they will be happy to read another installment in hopes of finding out.”

And from Midwest Book Review: “A great read, full of likeable and seedy characters that keep you guessing, great locals, humor and romance, mystery and suspense, a real page-turner.”
Now I imagine you’re all asking, “Gee, I wonder what’s next for Sandy the author?”

Glad you asked.

With A Cup of Jo launched, I’m turning my attention to a second series from Severn House. “Main Street Mysteries” will be set in the popular tourist destination of the North Carolina High Country. The United Kingdom version of the first book, Running on Empty, will be published in December of this year, the U.S. one by March 2011.

The Main Street series will alternate with the Maggy books and if reviewers thought Brookhills was quirky, wait ’til they get a load of this also-fictional small town

Life on Sutherton’s Main Street has always been inexplicably hazardous, no matter the season or the number of visitors overrunning the North Carolina resort community.

The college student who bet his buddies that he could paddle a beer-filled ice chest across the lake. And lost. The two fishermen, squashed like June bugs by an SUV while they were trying to buy (mostly) live night-crawlers from a vending machine. The skier, choking on her gum half-way down the slope, arriving at the bottom still standing, if not quite breathing. And even that tally didn’t count the occasional tourist who wandered into the mountains each year, never to wander back out.

But the day Daisy Griggs siphoned nearly three pints of blood from poor Mrs. Bradenham during the town’s annual volunteer drive seemed to set a new standard.

This last landmark incident also brings Daisy’s daughter AnnaLise back to Sutherton for Labor Day weekend. But the traditional celebration turns out to be no picnic. People are dying — in greater than historical numbers — and unless AnnaLise can figure out why, her mother may be next.

I hope you’ll enjoy A Cup of Jo, and then tag along with me to North Carolina for the Main Street Mysteries.

I think I can promise that you’ll find no mimes in the mountains.

Wasted, or not.
Sandra Balzo turned to mystery writing after twenty years in corporate public relations, event management and publicity. A CUP of JO, her sixth Maggy Thorsen coffeehouse mystery is out this fall. Balzo’s second series, Main Street Mysteries, will debut in 2011 with RUNNING ON EMPTY. The books, set in the popular vacation destination of North Carolina’s High Country, will alternate with the Maggy Thorsen mysteries.