Five Stars For LITTLE BLACK BOOK OF MURDER

Nancy Martin cover1I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed the Blackbird Sisters mysteries by Nancy Martin, but this is my latest. (Not hers, but I’m a bit behind.) The three sisters make do without the money they grew up with (and their parents misspent before they deserted the crumbling family home). Nora tries to keep body and soul together, save the family estate, and, oh, yes, not marry the man she loves who just happens to be a semi-reformed mobster. You see, there’s this thing about any man who marries one of the sisters (there have been several) dying a sudden and usually dreadful death.

That is something that runs through all the books. But the sisters have a lot more going on. Babies, for one. That’s one sister’s specialty—she’s had many husbands. Mystery for another. A mystery that involves Nora more than anyone. In this book, Nora is sent by the new boss at her newspaper to write a profile on a billionaire fashion designer at his new high-tech organic farm. Unfortunately, he is murdered before she can complete the interview.

To quote from the Goodreads description, “If anything can bring the blue-blooded Blackbird sisters together, it’s a murder investigation involving high-society events, glamorous people, and the disappearance of a genetically perfect pig that may or may not be basking in the sun at Blackbird Farm. They’ll all have to pull together this time, because if Nora can’t bring home the bacon, she might have to exchange her bucolic estate for a cramped walk-up.”

The Blackbird Sisters mysteries are always great reads. I especially liked this one. Lots of fun and fashion, mystery and danger. Nora and her sisters keep me enthralled!

Goodreads Giveaway-YESTERDAY’S BODY

I’m substituting a bit of news for my usual five-star review today. I’m running a Goodreads giveaway with Yesterday’s Body, my first published mystery. The event runs from March 17, through April 9, and I’m giving away ten copies. Goodreads giveaway link here.

For a brief description: Jo Durbin isn’t under 40 or anorexic slim. Her face wouldn’t launch a thousand ships or even a rowboat. She wonders, how did she get the job with those beautiful people? And, will the police find her fingerprints on the murder weapon? Did one of those beautiful people she works with kill Francine? Or, will they point to Jo?

Hard to explain that she’s only trying to revitalize a career gone south. Her plan—write a best-seller as a bag lady living on the street. Invent an imaginary cat to further her image. Collect keys that let her into unused storage and vacant homes. Get accepted by the street people. Befriend the guy who wants to “save” them all. It seems possible. Ignore the carping sister who “knows better”? That one’s tricky. Elude the killer long enough to solve the crime? You know that’s the killer question.
“I very much like your voice. You project just the tone and attitude I love to read.” Chris Roerden, Author of Agatha Award-winning DON’T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY.
The first edition e-book was a 2011 EPIC finalist for mystery/suspense.
The sequel, Forgotten Body, will be published later this year.

Five Star Read – EVANS ABOVE

This is the first of the series, and the first of Rhys Bowen’s three series. I discovered her third series first, then the second, and now while I’m trying to collect all the books in the second, I decided to try the first. Did not know what to expect with a male protagonist, a village constable in Wales. I must say, from my reading of the first book, that this series is just as delightful (not a term usually associated with male cops) as the other two. In this book readers are right there in Wales, along with all the frustrations, the odd goings on, and the variety of characters. Add to that a puzzling plot and a wind-up that pulls an amazing host of events together.

Evans aboveI’d like to quote from the publisher’s description — Evan Evans, a young police constable, has traded city life for that of Llanfair – an idyllic Welsh village. Nestling in the Snowdonia mountain range, Llanfair looks to Evans like a town forgotten by time, but he quickly learns that even the bucolic countryside has its share of eccentric – and deadly – characters. Evans’s new neighbors include two competitive ministers vying for the souls of their flock, one lascivious barmaid, and three other Evanses: Evans-the-Meat; Evans-the-Milk and Evans-the-Post (whose favorite hobby is to read the mail before he delivers it).

Before Evans has time to sort through the complicated relationships and rivalries of his new home, he’s called to the scene of a crime as brutal and fearsome as any he encountered in the big city. Two hikers have been murdered on the trails of the local mountain, and Evans must hunt down a vicious killer – who may or may not be linked to the mysterious destruction of Mrs. Powell-Jones’ prize-winning tomatoes.

Most of this series is available as e-books only. I’ve gotten them as used books through the resellers on Amazon since my husband enjoys them too, and he hasn’t converted to e-book reading. I do wish they were more widely available.

Since I mentioned the rarity of books published even as late as 2005, I wonder, do you have a favorite series that is out of print?

 

Free e-book—A KNUCKLEHEAD IN 1920s ALASKA

A Knucklehead in 1920s AlaskaEvery Thursday I post something I find interesting, hoping you will too. So, today’s interesting bit is about tomorrow—which is when one of my e-books goes free for five days.

File it under both history and mystery. The history part is easy. The book is one I wrote with my father from audio tapes he gave me quite a few years ago about going to Alaska to earn college money.  He was nineteen, a hot-headed kid who didn’t want to take any guff. Of course, guff is often what one gets from an employer, so he had a lot of different jobs. He failed to blow himself up carrying dynamite. He failed to drown when he and a horse ended up under the ice in a near-freezing river. He even managed to survive dancing with what they referred to as “a woman on the line” when her boyfriend showed up. In fact, after I heard my father’s adventures, I realized that it’s a marvel I was ever born. That’s the history part.

The mystery part is at the tail end of this book, sort of a Thank You for reading—a reprint of my first short mystery, “Yesterday’s News” published in Future’s Mysterious Mystery Magazine several years ago.

A Knucklehead in 1920s Alaska e-book is available for Kindle. The free dates are February 27 through March 3, 2015. Do read and enjoy!

Monday, I’ll be back here, but I’ll be visiting Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers too.

Agatha Nominee-WRITES OF PASSAGE

WRITES OF PASSAGE frontMy five-star pick this week was nominated in the non-fiction category and includes essays from 59 Sisters in Crime members (I’m one of them). Hank Phillippi Ryan edited Writes of Passage and is the author of a mystery also up for an Agatha. Publisher. Henery Press, is a hot-bed of Agatha winners and nominees. With a line-up like that, how can this book miss?

Readers agree. This is one review on Amazon. 

“I purchased this book to support Sisters in Crime. What the heck, I thought. I can read a story a day with my tea in the morning. Then I can read my “other book” later in the day. Except I didn’t. I found myself reading four or five stories in the morning (each one is about 2 pages), and then picking it back up later in the day. So much for my “other book!”
“If you’re a beginning, established or emerging writer, or simply interested in the writing journey, there’s something in Writes of Passage for you. Many somethings. Encouragement, passion, truth, advice, humor and angst resolved.
“I won’t pick my favorite stories here — couldn’t if I tried. But I will give a major kudos callout to Hank Phillippi Ryan’s exemplary job of editing. This could have been just a bunch of stories. Instead it’s a cohesive blend of many voices, coming together as one.”
For two months, Sisters in Crime posted a clip from each author. This one was from my contribution called: The Guppy Connection. “I’m a Guppy who is still learning, but also offering any help I can to my favorite group.” (That’s the Guppy chapter—originally named for the Great UnPublished, but now, many consider themselves the Great Under Published, as many have gone on to publishing even multiple mystery series.)

Five Stars for MAIDS OF MISFORTUNE

My five-star pick this week combines two of my loves—mystery and historic fiction. Maids of Misfortune takes place in 1879 San Francisco. A young widow supports herself as boarding house owner Annie Fuller, and, in disguise, as psychic Sibyl who gives personal and financial advice to clients. As a woman, she knows that no one would ever accept such advice from her, but they will accept it as coming from the stars. When one of her clients dies, supposedly by suicide, she knows his finances weren’t in the shambles the police claim. When the police realize it was murder, they look to his family. Annie poses as a serving girl for the family to find the truth.

The author, M. Louisa Locke, seamlessly puts the reader squarely in that time and place. While we are engrossed in the plot we notice the work involved to keep up a house, the attitudes of everyone toward a Chinese cook, Annie’s belated realization of what her laundry girl does, and the problems of travel and communication in an earlier age.

Maids of Misfortune is the first of a series (the ebook is now free). There are several short stories as well. The fourth full-length mystery in the series will be out this month.

Of interest to the writers among my readers, M. Louisa Locke’s blog shares her ongoing marketing plans for an independent writer. (Next week I’ll revisit the upcoming Agatha awards with another good read.)

Agatha Nominee-CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE

My five star pick today is a two-fer—five stars plus Agatha nominee for Best First Novel!

It’s winter, the snow is piling high, and Zoe Chambers, paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania is on the road with the emergency vehicle, trying to save lives. But someone is murdered, and in a small town where everyone knows everyone else, there are a lot of secrets and connections.

I read Circle of Influence last May with lovely warm sunshine, but author Annette Dashofy made me feel every bit of icy precipitation as I settled down to read one great mystery, with unexpected revelations on almost every page.

If you haven’t yet read Circle of Influence, snuggle into a blanket before a roaring fire and settle down to read one great not-quite-cozy mystery with an excellent plot and memorable characters. And, if you attend Malice Domestic in May, consider voting for Circle of Influence.

Five Stars for LOWCOUNTRY BOIL

I read Lowcountry Boil two years ago, shortly after it was published by Henery Press. Then I went to my first ever Malice Domestic in 2013, and voted for it to win as Best First Novel of 2012. Of course, I was sure I’d picked a lot of other winners as well, but Lowcountry Boil was the only winner I picked. Since I was sitting at one of the Henery Press tables, I got a front row seat as the other Henery Press authors helped Susan Boyer celebrate.

Susan Boyer-Agatha winner

Susan Boyer-Agatha winner

To do justice to this book, I’m rereading it now, and enjoying it just as much as I did the first time. Some things come back to me immediately. I remembered the ghost (I love ghosts). When the locket turned up, I thought, aha! Other plot points had slipped my mind. Oh, yes, now I remember, I thought as a new danger unfolded.

But this isn’t telling you about a great read. A Great Winning Read! Not only did it win the Agatha, but it won the 2012 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery Suspense.

The lowcountry of the story is a South Carolina island along the Intracoastal Waterway (Did I pass it on one of several boating trips, I wonder?) It’s a close-knit community of friends, relatives, and often, enemies who may be both friends or relatives.

Liz returns to the island homestead after her grandmother dies. She learns it was murder. So, why would anyone kill a sweet old lady? There are conspiracies afoot, and a ghost who confers with Liz, looking to save the island from the bad guys.

Are the problems broken marriages, land grabs, long remembered slights? Or, none of the above? Although Liz runs her own private investigation agency in the city, her brother, the local police chief, does not want her help in solving one murder and trying to prevent further mayhem.

Other reviewer comments: “I can see why this debut mystery is getting a lot of buzz.”

“The paranormal aspect adds to the story rather than taking it over, striking the perfect balance.”

“A Southern Mystery to be Savored!”

I agree with all of them.

Five Stars For JUST ADD WATER

I didn’t have to dig very deeply into my favorites list to come up with 5 star A Just Add Water by Jinx Schwartyz. I understand that this author is as at-home on boats as she is in front of her computer writing about Hetta Coffey.

Hetta doesn’t have a boat as the book starts. She has women friends, an ex fiancé, and a dog named RJ. Let’s just say, boy friends come and go, and their coming isn’t always good. Could be fatal, as a matter of fact. But, oh, that does make for good reading!

The dead body doesn’t appear right away, but the action is non-stop. Hetta is after a man, any man. Perhaps buying a boat is the way to go. Then, again, perhaps not. But Hetta has a boat, and she is intends to learn how to use it. (That’s a quote, more or less, from the author’s tweets, “Hetta has a boat and she’s not afraid to use it.”)

This is my first Hetta Coffey Mystery and won’t be the last! I read Jinx Schwartyz’ Land of Mountains before giving it to a granddaughter and absolutely loved it. It is semi-autobiographical. I don’t think Just Add Water is, but it certainly could be, if the child in the earlier book grew up to get involved in murder instead of just into boats.

I’d like to quote from a few others who liked this book:

“First, I must say this book was a chuckle a minute—except for the parts not designed to elicit chuckles, of course.”

“Whether you’re a fan of mystery, chick lit, or humor, you’ll be a fan of Hetta Coffey and author Jinx Schwartz.”

“Hetta is brash and bold with a mouth that doesn’t have much of a filter.”

There are many more reviews, but that gives you an idea. Almost all of them are positive.

Just Add Water is available here.

Cloud Nine

Cloud Nine

Of course, I know a little something about boats as well. Just for kicks, I’ll add a picture of the boat my husband and I sailed for a good many years. We didn’t find any killers, but we did run into a few killer storms. And, knowing a little bit about boats myself, only made me appreciate Just Add Water even more.

Does knowledge of the subject affect your reading? I know, if an author doesn’t get something right that I do know about, that does affects my reading pleasure. It down-right destroys it.