Cat Mysteries — Something New?

More favorite mystery reads

I’ve heard it said, a pic­ture of a cat on a book cov­er is a sure win­ner. And a mys­tery with cats solv­ing the mys­tery? Yum. Or, per­haps I should just purr!

New read­ers might think mys­ter­ies with cats are a new thing. Nope. Long before the dig­i­tal boom and even before Ama­zon, there were cat mys­ter­ies. I’m quite sure I bought every paper­back of ‘The Cat Who’ mys­ter­ies. The two Siamese and their human, Quiller­an, kept me read­ing episode after episode.

More recent­ly, I’ve become acquaint­ed with oth­er mys­tery solv­ing cats. Janet Cantrell (a woman with almost as many names as she has mys­tery series) intro­duced me to the Fat Cat. (Rates anoth­er purr.)

But I’m always on the look­out for some­thing new. The last cov­er is a book I haven’t yet read. The series sounds inter­est­ing — A cat in the stack mys­tery — library stacks, I believe. Could this be my next favorite read?

Or, maybe you have anoth­er sug­ges­tion. There’s the mag­i­cal cats, cats most every­where. I’d like to hear more!

 

Is spring finally here?

Blossoms and Blue Skies

Fri­day the 13th of April is not an unlucky day this year. It’s the day when spring has final­ly arrived. Blue skies, coat-free weath­er, and the bloom­ing mag­no­lia near our front door. So I’m not look­ing for an ill wind, def­i­nite­ly!

I use that mag­no­lia tree rather like a cal­en­dar. What date did the first buds pop? When did they drop? (Noto­ri­ous­ly, they don’t last long.) Even, in the win­ter, when did snow fall and set­tle in clumps on the branch­es? In fact, before I knew it was a mag­no­lia (umm, I’m not even sure of that), one win­ter I began call­ing it our Pop­corn Tree after those clumps formed. My imag­i­na­tion turned them into pop­corn balls dec­o­rat­ing a Christ­mas tree. This year my pop­corn tree cal­en­dar tells me we have a very late spring. One year, at this time, not only had the buds dropped and scat­tered, but full-sized leaves cov­ered the tree.

To put a bit of writer/reader con­tent in this blog, let me point out that I’ve filled two para­graphs with spring blath­er. And, this morn­ing I filled even more para­graphs with the next scene of my some­time-in-the-future mys­tery, plus delet­ed two para­graphs I wrote yes­ter­day. So, that’s progress. Right?

Now for a ques­tion I real­ly want an answer or twelve to—are there any mys­ter­ies that have spring, or a change of sea­sons as a vital clue? Or even a pass­ing ref­er­ence? I scanned titles, but didn’t find a one. Do you have an answer?

Mystery by Mainframe

Artificial Intelligence and Murder

Don­na Andrews is best known for her mys­ter­ies with birds. But, did you know she has an excel­lent series of four books with the sleuth Tur­ing Hop­per, AIP (that’s Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Per­son­al­i­ty). Yep, she’s a main­frame com­put­er who became sen­tient. When she’s faced with mur­der, she engages her “Miss Marple” brain to solve the mys­tery. And, through­out the four books she solves more mys­tery, but digs her­self deep­er into a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion. She’d cloned her­self, to be in two places at once, but what hap­pened to the clone? Unfor­tu­nate­ly, that mys­tery has nev­er been solved. Evi­dent­ly, not enough read­ers were as delight­ed as I was. With tra­di­tion­al pub­lish­ing, the pub­lish­er has the final say, so the series wasn’t con­tin­ued. The first in the series, Click Here for Mur­der, won the Agatha and Antho­ny Awards. (I still have my four paper­backs, await­ing for a sequel.) In the mean­time, read Donna’s oth­er mys­ter­ies. Vis­it the Don­na Andrews page here.

Dig­i­tal Dick is not a series, but it is anoth­er mys­tery with a main­frame heart and human emo­tions. (John Edward Mullen has writ­ten two books so far.) Dig­i­tal Dick learns how to solve mys­ter­ies while wish­ing he had hands so he could plug in his own elec­tric­i­ty. He runs rings around the bad guys, as well as the good guys who just don’t under­stand him. Oh, yes, he has a human sis­ter as well. Vis­it the John Edward Mullen page here.

I’m on the look­out for sim­i­lar books. Do you know of any such books? I’d love to hear about them. (I’m not talk­ing mil­i­tary intel­li­gence here, real­ly, although I might be con­vinced.)

 

New history mystery — on preorder

Killer Debt — Mystery on the battle line

Now that my blog is work­ing again, I can belat­ed­ly tell you about an his­toric mys­tery from one of my favorite authors. This month it’s on * pre-order * with an option of perks. (Since I’m so late, some of the perks are no longer avail­able.) But let’s for­get that and focus on the book. It will come out in May and is the newest in the Michael Stod­dard series. Stod­dard is an Eng­lish offi­cer under orders to pro­tect an Amer­i­can arriv­ing under white flag to con­sult with the British. His main adver­sary is anoth­er British offi­cer, as he also strives to keep an Amer­i­can lady safe. (Or, maybe I’m say­ing too much here? Can I men­tion that they real­ly do like each oth­er?)

Author Suzanne Adair brings our Amer­i­can his­to­ry to the pages, shin­ing a light on much that has been for­got­ten about our past. The sto­ry is fic­tion, but the his­to­ry under­ly­ing this mys­tery is real. What bet­ter way to dis­cov­er the for­got­ten past than in a thriller that por­trays colo­nial life as well as Eng­lish and Amer­i­can sen­ti­ments in our Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War? While you are on the site linked above, (set off by stars), check out the video telling more, the link to Suzanne read­ing chap­ter one, and a link to a PDF of the first chap­ter.

 

Shredded chicken

Prepare ahead for future meals — and one suggestion

I must admit, some of my best ideas come from Ann Ful­ton in her news­pa­per col­umn, Foun­tain Avenue Kitchen. Today I have two recipes inspired by her. The first is how to cook up sev­er­al chick­en breasts to cre­ate shred­ded chick­en. The oth­er is one way to use part of that shred­ded chick­en.

Shredded Chicken 

Ingre­di­ents:
6 large chick­en breasts
3/4 cup chick­en broth or stock
1/2 tbsp gar­lic pow­der
1/2 tbsp onion pow­der
1/2 tbsp salt or sea­soned salt
1 tsp black pep­per

Direc­tions:
Place chick­en in slow cook­er. Sprin­kle spices on top, then pour the broth over all. Cov­er and cook for 4 to 5 hours on low, or 2 to 3 hours on high. (The chick­en will shred eas­i­ly when done.) Shred with two forks either inside the cook­er, or on a cut­ting board.
Use amount desired in your favorite recipe. Freeze the remain­der in one and two-cup amounts. Add some of the liq­uid to each air-tight, plas­tic bagged por­tion. To use, thaw and drain liq­uid, reserv­ing it to add to any liq­uid required.
Note: As I have a small­er pres­sure cook­er, I used half of this recipe.

Spinach, Mushroom, and Chicken Quesadillas

Ingre­di­ents:
8 ounces sliced mush­rooms (any kind)
1/2 tsp minced gar­lic
1 cup rough­ly chopped spinach
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp but­ter
6-inch or 8-inch flour tor­tillas
1 cup cooked, shred­ded chick­en
up to 2 cups shred­ded cheese (ched­dar, Mon­terey Jack, Mex­i­can blend, or mixed)
sour cream and sal­sa to serve

Direc­tions:
Saute and brown mush­rooms in olive oil for about 8 min­utes. Con­tin­ue cook­ing until any liq­uid has evap­o­rat­ed. Add the gar­lic, cook and stir for half a minute. Add the spinach and saute until it is wilt­ed. (You may warm chick­en in microwave.) Keep warm ingre­di­ents warm. Pre­pare tor­tillas by toast­ing in but­ter on one side (medi­um heat fry pan), then flip­ping. While the sec­ond side is toast­ing, add to one side mush­room mix­ture, chick­en, and cheese. Fold oth­er side over top. As cheese melts and bot­tom browns, flip to oth­er side to com­plete brown­ing. Que­sadil­las may be kept in 300 degree oven until all are ready to serve.

Note: Using 2 cups of shred­ded cheese, this recipe will fill eight 8-inch tor­tillas. I used less cheese and divid­ed all the oth­er ingre­di­ents between five 6-inch tor­tillas. (Good either way!)

I may make it dif­fer­ent­ly the next time. (I always do.) So feel free to change every­thing. What would you add or sub­tract?

 

Mystery Aboard

Mysteries, Boats, and Boaters

Two of my favorite mys­tery authors are boaters. So, what else do they do but set their mys­ter­ies aboard? Actu­al­ly, not only do I love their sto­ries, they inspire me. (Okay, I have a mys­tery aboard.  Not a series yet, but I’m writ­ing as fast as I can.) So, here they are: Jinx Swartz and Chris­tine Kling.

Some recipes fail

Cheeseburger Muffins — NOT

Not a recipe day. Not a “save time, serve a deli­cious meal” day. No, not at all. How about a “For­get it. Let’s go to Burg­er King,” day? 

I had a half pound of ham­burg­er and high hopes. The recipe sound­ed inter­est­ing. The “come on” sound­ed even bet­ter. Oh, yes! Words like, “when we’re dying for a yum­my cheese­burg­er,” and “fam­i­ly favorite!”

I’d start­ed with a pound of ham­burg­er, plan­ning a meat­loaf, our per­son­al fam­i­ly favorite. Yum­my meal and sev­er­al cold sand­wich­es in the future. But I suc­cumbed to anoth­er idea. Must admit that was a stretch. Filled pep­per. But that’s anoth­er sto­ry about some­thing we did eat, but don’t plan to try again. Back to today’s dis­as­ter. First thing, it took an hour of my time. Sec­ond thing, it took a lot of oth­er gro­ceries that could have been bet­ter spent. Two eggs, a quar­ter of a pound of but­ter, two, count them, two cups of shred­ded cheese, ketchup, mus­tard, milk, flour, sug­ar. Sug­ar?

The recipe made way more than two of us could eat. (Espe­cial­ly since hub­by ate only one.) I sol­diered on, not sure why, and ate three. Or was it four? Nope, I’m sure I filled up with three. How­ev­er, a few of those good words were, “freezes well.” So now I have at least a dozen of those lit­tle nuggets of delight in the freez­er. Per­haps I’ll serve them to grand­chil­dren, nat­u­ral­ly using words like, “a go-to snack when you’re dying for a yum­my cheese­burg­er!” I won’t show them the pic­ture from the recipe book that shows them plump and rosy with­out those singed edges that result­ed from the min­i­mal cook time.

I Love a Mystery — Historic Mysteries

Three Favorite Historic Mysteries

My favorite books are mys­ter­ies, true, but I like to read in sev­er­al gen­res. When I find a delight­ful his­toric mys­tery, I’m dou­bly thrilled. In fact, I so love his­tor­i­cal mys­ter­ies, I have to show­case three series. 

A Main Dish From Leftovers

Stacks for Two — A leftover delight

Ingre­di­ents 
4 6-inch four tor­tillas
1/2 cup cooked meat, chopped fine
1/2 jar sal­sa
shred­ded cheese

Direc­tions
1. Reserve 1 table­spoon of sal­sa. Mix sal­sa and chopped meat in fry pan and heat togeth­er.
2. Place one tor­tilla in the bot­tom of a small casse­role dish.
3. Spread one half of the sal­sa mix­ture on the tor­tilla.
4. Sprin­kle shred­ded cheese on top.
5. Repeat 2–4 (plac­ing anoth­er tor­tilla on top of the one below, then cov­er­ing with cheese.
6. Place last tor­tilla on top, spread the reserved sal­sa, then sprin­kle more shred­ded cheese.
7. Heat in 350̊ oven 20 or more min­utes until cheese bub­bling and top slight­ly browned.
8. Cut in wedges and serve with sour cream, chopped let­tuce, and chopped toma­to.

Notes: Any meat may be used — beef, pork, chick­en, ham, even fish.
Cheeses may include ched­dar, moz­zarel­la, Col­by, Parme­san, Mex­i­can blends, or oth­ers. You may pre­fer to place a dif­fer­ent cheese in each lay­er.

Vari­a­tions: Use pineap­ple sal­sa and include pineap­ple tid­bits with the meat.
Use a chopped, cooked veg­etable instead of meat, or with meat.

Laugh Out Loud Mysteries

Two humorous mystery series

A good mys­tery may keep me up late at night as I fol­low an excit­ing sto­ry and try to uncov­er clues that lead me to who-dun-it before the sleuth. If I’m sur­prised, that’s an added ben­e­fit. Nail-bit­ing? You bet. Fear for the safe­ty of a total­ly imag­i­nary hero or hero­ine? Oh, way sure! But laugh all the way through until tears flow? Some­times that’s exact­ly what I’m look­ing for. And two of my favorite series fit the bill.

Tamar Myers is one author. Her Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch Mys­ter­ies (with recipes, even) fol­low Mag­dale­na Yoder as she solves mys­ter­ies while run­ning her own Pen­nDutch Inn. Some books in the series were pub­lished twen­ty years ago, and oth­ers more recent­ly. One review­er of Too Many Crooks Spoil The Broth said, “Part Agatha Christie, part Key­stone Kops, with a few tan­ta­liz­ing food stops along the way.” Some titles are: Play It Again, Spam, The Crepes of Wrath, and Custard’s Last Stand. True sto­ry: She sold each book on the title alone! Okay, maybe not the first one.

Kaye George is anoth­er author who fits the bill. Choke, Broke, and Smoke, are the titles in her Imo­gene Duck­wor­thy Mys­ter­ies. One review­er said: “Ques­tion: If you com­bined Lucille Ball with Inspec­tor Clouse­au, what would you get? Answer: Imo­gene Duck­wor­thy, ama­teur PI…” Immy, the ama­teur sleuth who real­ly wants to be a pro­fes­sion­al, is one of a kind. She tries her darn­d­est, while the read­er won­ders how she can pos­si­bly suc­ceed, but cheers her every effort any­way. I could add, the read­er also enjoys her unex­pect­ed detours from those detect­ing chores.

Both authors have oth­er series as well, series I great­ly enjoy, maybe not just when I’m in a sil­ly mood. Do you have a favorite fun­ny mys­tery or series? I’d love to add to add to my, ahem, over­whelm­ing pile of BTR (books to read).