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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.

But this article is about her new series – the Manor House Mysteries – and its second installment, Grace Interrupted. The first of the series, Grace Under Pressure, got a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. So, if you haven’t figured it out, it’s about Grace with a capital G. Grace Wheaton, the curator of the elegant manor house, Marshfield Manor.

Grace Interrupted, as described by Julie:

“Civil war re-enactors have set up camp on the grounds of Marshfield Manor. The group is very believable, especially when the unrest spills out of the barracks and inside the sumptuous mansion. Grace manages to settle a minor squabble, but loses the war when actor Zachary Kincade is found stabbed to death.

Jack Embers, the groundskeeper, falls under suspicion when he’s linked to the death of Zachary’s brother years ago. But there were others out for Zachary, actors who can be very convincing when the coveted role of ‘General’ is on the line. Grace feels responsible for finding the murderer…and for the sweet tuxedo kitten found on her doorstep, Bootsie. Can she come to the rescue of her friends without putting herself in danger’s way?”

When was the last time you read a mystery that starred Civil War re-enactors? The premise alone compels you to read it.

Julie Hyzy started her writing career with science fiction. Really. Specifically, published short stories of the Star Trek theme. Then she made the logical leap to cozy mysteries, but she’s still a trekkie at heart. Last year she won the trivia contest at a Star Trek convention. She says she didn’t wear a costume, but there are a number of people who swear she’s a dead ringer for Seven of Nine.

Before taking up writing, she tried performing as a singing waitress. She still has a recording of her unforgettable rendition of Drops of Jupiter, but she wouldn’t send it to me. You can hear it if you hang out with her daughter, though. It’s her ring tone. Apparently she calls her daughter when she’s on a date so the song will scare the boy off.

She also did community theater and was highly acclaimed by all the terrified kids for her portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, where she bore no resemblance to Seven of Nine. And, of course, she’s experienced the inevitable wardrobe malfunctions. Only hers was more of a prop malfunction – a runaway couch on wheels that she accidently set it in motion with an energetic fainting spell. If it had run into a wardrobe, then maybe it would have qualified. There is no YouTube video, so don’t bother to look.

You would think that all of this bedlam would have been preceded by some youthful adventures as a rebel. But no, she has a business degree from Loyola College and, before taking up writing, a successful career in business and finance. She married another Loyola alum – her brother. Fraternity brother, that is. (She’s from Illinois, not, well, you know where without me denigrating that great state.) She was one of five girls who crashed the Delta Sigma Pi chapter there and then got inducted. She still has nightmares about Hell Night and her Little Green Sprout costume.

And if United Airlines is wondering where the spare tire for their 747 is, Julie knows.

To learn more about Julie, please visit her website.

John Darrin