What’s a Mystery Writer To Do? I mean, when she can’t figure out who the killer is? Now, you really can’t have a mystery without a killer, that’s for sure. But when I wrote Death of a Hot Chick, I … Continue reading
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.
The Gaslight Mystery Series, written by Victoria Thompson, is set in turn-of-the-century New York City. Each book is named for the street or area where midwife Sarah Brandt suspects some evil doing has occurred. Police Sergeant Malloy, is involved as well, providing a bit of romance.
Across the country, in 1800s San Francisco, M. Louisa Locke’s Victorian San Francisco Mystery series feature Annie Fuller, a boardinghouse owner and clairvoyant, and Nate Dawson, a San Francisco lawyer. Together they investigate murders and other crimes.
Back in turn-of-the-century New York, the Molly Murphy mysteries feature an Irish immigrant. This series by Rhys Bowen begins with Molly barely escaping Ireland, and by the second book ending up running a detective agency (and solving the unexpected death of its former owner). She, too, meets an officer, NYPD police captain Daniel Sullivan.
Come to think of it, these series hit three genres: mystery, history, and romance. In any event, they provide me with hours of intrigue, lovely prose, and perplexing puzzles.
Of course, I’m always eager to find more stories. Do you have suggestions for a series that hits one, two, or all three of these genres? (Or others, I’m even partial to future stories, which are, of course, ALL completely fiction — at this point!)
Favorite Mystery Reads of The Past
Do you remember going to the bookstore when there were two main ones in the big shopping center and mass-market paperback copies of all the books in a mystery series on the shelves? You’d buy the next one in the series and know all the others would be waiting for your when you came back. Even after one store closed or moved to a remote location, there were still those rows of books by your favorite author.
I got whole series, one at a time. The first would be available as well as the fifteenth and all the others in between. The Cat Who and Mrs. Pollifax mysteries were my favorites. I traded away most of the Cat Who books when we were sailing, passing them on to the next reader in exchange for a fresh mystery. I kept all the Mrs. Pollifax books and still have them. I’ve read the entire series twice. Must be due for a third reading!
Those books and others kept me entertained while my children grew up, and went off into the world. I followed Mr. Qwilleran and his life as his amazing cats helped him solve mysteries. I relived the life of Mrs. Pollifax as she traveled around the world—as a middle-aged, unexpected secret agent. Both series pure fantasy, of course. Did I care? Nope, I ate them up.
How about you? Did you have favorite series that grew along with your family? Gave you moments of pleasure amid chaos? And, like me, perhaps they inspired you to write stories of your own. My first mystery owes a lot to Mrs. Pollifax. And cats? Well, my amateur sleuth does have an imaginary cat. You see, Clyde, the yellow-striped tom, came with the territory. But that’s another story.
The Grand Dame of Mystery — Agatha Christie
When I think of all the variety of mystery novels, I have to begin with Agatha Christie and her amateur sleuth, Miss Marple. I read quite a few of those, but I never figured out “who dun it” before the end. And that’s only one reason why I love those books. Another is the wide variety of writers she spawned. But I digress—I’m talking Dame Christie here. And, although I think of her as the author of mysteries involving that nosy lady Miss Marple, her first detective was Hercule Poirot. She wrote many more books about him, but after a few years, she thought him “insufferable.” However, she knew her readers loved him, so she wrote more.
Just recently, I read Christie’s first published mystery (but the seventh mystery she wrote) The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Although I’d seen many Poirot TV shows, I had never read any of the books starring him. In this book, he was a retired detective, with his later sidekick Hastings as the narrator and someone who had met him earlier. Hastings, after watching him at work, thought he must surely have lost his great detecting skills. Inspector Japp was there as well. Dame Christie laid the ground work with her characters, then, in later books, used them to their best advantage. (In other words, read them in any order!)
Although Agatha Christie tired of Poirot, she never tired of Miss Marple who she’d patterned after “the sort of old lady who would have been rather like some of my step grandmother’s cronies – old ladies whom I have met in so many villages where I have gone to stay as a girl.” Definitely, her readers never tire of Miss Marple of St. Mary Mead.
What is your favorite Agatha Christie mystery? Did you know Dame Christie has a Facebook page? She also has an author page on Mystery.net. That’s where I found this picture of her.
I have a new cover for my first book, Yesterday’s Body. Inside the book, my amateur sleuth is just the same. On the cover, she’s changed.
The first cover was done by the small publisher, Wings ePress. Then, after my contract with them was up, I self-published with a cover by my daughter, Donna Hedricks. Now, since I’m about to publish a sequel, I wanted them to match. So… a new cover, by Karen Phillips. But let’s face it. Jo’s image has changed.
Of course, I must admit, there’s not much of Jo on the third cover. But they all have the yellow cat.
Okay, I gotta crow!
It’s mighty rare when one’s work is recognized so beautifully, and on the same day when I want to remind readers that my Goodreads giveaway is winding down.
Here’s the full review:
Title: Yesterday’s Body
Author: Norma Huss
Publisher: Sunset Cloud Mystery
ISBN: 13: 978–1466449350
The next time you see an older woman who looks like she lives on the streets, remember to be nice, she might just be more than she seems. She could be amateur sleuth, Jo Durbin, and, if you’ve done anything bad, she might be looking for you.
Talented author Norma Huss has crafted a fun read that offers a different kind of sleuth with a very different background. Life on the streets is a hard way to live and any reader will definitely wonder how such a person, particularly a woman, could have the energy and ambition to investigate murders or other crimes.
Join Jo, and her sometime sidekick Sylvie who is also her sister, in tracking down a killer after she discovers a body in a closet with the help of her cat, Clyde, who isn’t all there.
I’m pleased to recommend Yesterday’s Body as a story any mystery fan will enjoy. The characters’ varied backgrounds blend into a story you won’t want to put down until you find out who the killer is and why they kill. You’ll enjoy meeting the realistic characters as they cross paths with Jo and yourself. You’ll find you’ve joined Jo in her investigation with Clyde and Sylvie and their threesome has become a foursome intent on solving the crimes.
Enjoy the adventure. I sure did.
Anne K. Edwards
Now for the Goodreads giveaway information—ends April 9, 2015. Giving away ten copies. Sign up here.
Next Monday, my five-star review (of other’s books) will be back. And this Thursday I’ll have something for both readers and writers.
Agatha awards, so named for Agatha Christie of mystery writing fame, are given every year at the Malice Domestic conference. One award is given for the top short story published the previous year. This year’s nominees are all winners, even though only one will receive the tea pot that is the coveted prize. Nominated for Best Short Story are:
“The Odds are Against Us” by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Nov. 2014
“Premonition” by Art Taylor, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays (Wildside Press)
“The Shadow Knows” by Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays (Wildside Press)
“Just Desserts for Johnny” by Edith Maxwell (Kings River Life Magazine)
“The Blessing Witch” by Kathy Lynn Emerson, Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave (Level Best Books)
Those who attend Malice Domestic this year are in for a dilemma. Which of these excellent stories will they vote for? What idea sparked the story? Find that answer on the Wicked Cozy Author blog, Best Short Agatha Nominees on Ideas. The Writers Who Kill blog asked each writer other questions. How many characters? How should they be developed? What comes first, story or theme? Their post is: An Interview with the 2014 Agatha Best Short Story Nominee Authors. They also have links to each story.
Wish I were going to Malice Domestic, except, then I’d have to decide which story was best. Quite an impossibility.
(Other links of interest are the Malice Domestic list of earlier short story winners and all more recent winners.)
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.
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.)
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.