From my TBR List to Yours: What I’ve Been Reading This Summer

I’ve been writing up a storm this summer, but managing to read a lot as well. And that makes me very happy. Here are just a few of the great new-to-me authors I can recommend for your TBR list:

Too Many Women in the Room by Joanne Guidoccio

At a special dinner in a Sudbury, Ontario restaurant, a lecherous photographer who has at some point managed to annoy all the women in the room, winds up dead. Did he provoke one of the women one time too many?

Lottery winner and entrepreneur Gilda Greco needs to protect her business and her investment in the restaurant, so she launches her own investigation. She uncovers the kind of secrets and resentments that can surely lead to murder.

I enjoyed the characters in Too Many Women in the Room and never guessed whodunit, but the clues were there all along. Learning about Northern Ontario and the Italian community—especially the culinary aspect—was a bonus. The author shares the recipes.

Joanne Guidoccio guest posted on this blog on July 26. Read the article here.

More on Joanne and her books.

Moral Infidelity by Rebecca Warner

Moral Infidelity is a well-crafted suspense tale of how a Florida governor’s intractable moral stance collides with his drive for money and power, threatening his marriage and political career.

There’s a great twist!

More on Rebecca Warner.

More on Moral Infidelity.

Money Grab by Frances Aylor

While financial advisor Robbie Bradford grieves after a personal tragedy, her colleague, Vivian Sutherland, steals her top client. When Vivian is murdered, Robbie becomes the prime suspect.

Can Robbie find Vivian’s killer and clear her own name before she’s the next victim of a money grab?

You’ll love this action-packed financial whodunit. Frances Aylor is an author to watch—as is her sleuth, the resourceful and feisty Robbie Bradford.

Disclosure: Frances is a friend from my local Sisters in Crime group. I was privileged to attend her launch party and look forward to many more.

More on Frances and Money Grab.

Arsenic with Austen by Katherine Bolger Hyde

When Emily Cavanaugh inherits a fortune from her great aunt, she expects her life to change. She doesn’t expect to embark on a murder investigation, confront the man who broke her heart 35 years before, and nearly lose her own life.

Emily finds parallels between the characters in Jane Austen’s Persuasion and the characters she suspects are guilty of murder.

Katherine Bolger Hyde has given readers a likeable heroine, intriguing mystery, an Oregon setting, and one of the best romances found in a contemporary mystery.

More on Katherine and her books.

View Katherine’s interview with Kings River Life here.

I met Katherine a few months ago at Malice Domestic.  I liked the premise of her series (Bloodstains with Bronte, #2 in the series, comes out in December.). To create buzz for her new release, Katherine will guest post here on November 29.

The Garden Club Mystery by Graham Gordon Landrum and Robert Landrum

Blurb from Amazon:

Rita Claymore gets things done. The Borderville YWCA would be nothing without her. And don’t forget all that street beautification she has done for the city.

Her main social bailiwick is the Buena Vista Garden Club, founded by her grandmother and now celebrating its status as the oldest such group in the state with a centennial. Rita Claymore also tramples on everyone else to get what she wants; so it is not that surprising when she is found conked with a squirrel ornament in her garden. Harriet Bushrow and Bob Kelsey come to the rescue in investigating the crime and a series of burglaries that don’t seem quite to fit in with the murder.

The Garden Club Mystery is the finale of the Social Club Mysteries series set in Borderville, Virginia (actually Bristol, Virginia and Bristol, Tennessee). I learned of this series from the “Missing Authors Update #4” post on my blog. I publish a recurring series on Missing Authors and readers submit inquiries about the authors they loved who have seemingly vanished, at least from the publishing scene. One of these inquiries was for Graham Gordon Landrum, who died in 1995, leaving The Garden Club Mystery unfinished. His son, Robert Landrum, finished the story.

This is a charming story, told in first person, but from the perspective of multiple characters. While cozy mysteries, especially those set in the South, often feature quirky characters, this author avoided that practice.

The title especially appealed to me, as I once served as Administrator for the Garden Club of Virginia in Richmond. I will add the rest of The Social Club Mysteries to my TBR list.

More on The Garden Club Mystery at Amazon.

If you question my reading the end of a series first, it’s not unusual. In fact, I posted about this very subject last September. Read my article here.

I’m off to a great start on Amy Reade’s Secrets of Hallstead House.

What are you reading this summer?

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Joanne Guidoccio: Living Vicariously Through My Protagonist

Today mystery author Joanne Guidoccio is my guest. Joanne recently published Too Many Women in the Room and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves an intriguing puzzle and great food (recipes are a bonus!).

Without further ado, here’s Joanne:

In the spring of 2001, I enrolled in the Career Development Practitioner Program at Conestoga College in nearby Kitchener, Ontario. After meeting with the course director, I sat down and meticulously planned the next seven years of my life.

I would continue teaching full-time during the day and take one online course each trimester. I even selected the order so that the more demanding courses would be taken during the summer months. Upon completion of the program, I would spend two summers interning in preparation for retirement and the launch of ReCareering, a counseling practice that would cater to boomers.

That was the fantasy.

The reality was very different.

While the first trimester went smoothly, I encountered several life challenges that derailed my “Second Act” plans. My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, entered a nursing home, and died shortly afterward; my mother’s Parkinson’s disease worsened; I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer and underwent ten months of treatment. Afterward, I developed hypothyroidism and had three additional cancer scares.

Frustrated and discouraged, I met with the course director. His advice still resonates with me: “Sometimes life happens and you just have to deal with it. But stay the course and complete the journey.”

I managed to complete the CDP program in six years (one year later than planned). While undergoing chemotherapy I started reading cozy mysteries, devouring several books a week. Halfway through my cancer year, I came up with a storyline for my own cozy: What if a teacher-turned-lottery winner returns to her hometown in Northern Ontario, only to find herself the primary suspect in the murders of four blondes. Can she prove her innocence and solve this case before it’s too late?

I identified strongly with the teacher-turned-lottery winner (Gilda Greco). So much so, that I used the first person POV. Our similarities…Italian Canadian, born and raised in Sudbury, Ontario, mathematics teachers, career development practitioners, yoga enthusiasts, non-foodies, and ambiverts (extraverted introverts).

Two major differences: Gilda won a $19 million lottery (I’m still hoping). Gilda also realized my “Second Act” dream and opened the first ReCareering office in Northern Ontario.

Bio

In 2008, Joanne Guidoccio retired from a 31-year teaching career and launched a second act that tapped into her creative side. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

***

The Wild Rose Press released A Season for Killing Blondes in June 2015. This past May, Book 2 (Too Many Women in the Room) was released. Book 3 (A Different Kind of Reunion) will be released in the spring of 2018.

Blurb for Too Many Women in the Room

When Gilda Greco invites her closest friends to a VIP dinner, she plans to share David Korba’s signature dishes and launch their joint venture— Xenia, an innovative Greek restaurant near Sudbury, Ontario. Unknown to Gilda, David has also invited Michael Taylor, a lecherous photographer who has throughout the past three decades managed to annoy all the women in the room. One woman follows Michael to a deserted field for his midnight run and stabs him in the jugular.

Gilda’s life is awash with complications as she wrestles with a certain detective’s commitment issues and growing doubts about her risky investment in Xenia. Frustrated, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers decades-old secrets and resentments that have festered until they explode into untimely death. Can Gilda outwit a killer bent on killing again?

Excerpt

Carlo’s hand caressed my thigh. More sex. The man could be insatiable. And it had been almost two weeks since our last romp. We started to kiss and then his cell phone vibrated.

Carlo groaned as he leaned over and picked up the phone. He sat up, his back to me. “What’s happened?” he barked. Carlo’s shoulders tensed. A long sigh and then his terse words. “Clear the perimeter, stat.”

Clear the perimeter. My heart beat faster as I recalled the last time I had heard those dreaded words. It could mean only one thing. Another murder. Two murders in less than twenty-hours. What were the chances of that happening in Sudbury? At the Christmas party, the police chief had bragged about one of the lowest murder rates in Canada during the past twelve months.

I swallowed hard. “What’s wrong?”

Carlo turned and gave me a long glance. “Andrew Frattini was found dead in the alleyway behind the ReCareering office.”

The nightmare couldn’t be starting again. This time with different players but still with the same intent. To pin the murder on me. But that strategy wouldn’t work. I had an iron-clad alibi no one could refute.

Carlo dressed quickly. He picked up his phone and then turned toward me. “Stay clear of this, Gilda.”

“How can I ignore it?” I said as I felt myself tearing up. “Someone’s trying to frame me again.”

He leaned over and kissed me. “Well, they didn’t succeed, did they?”

Book Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CORaCadAnbA

Buy Links

Amazon (US): https://is.gd/NRjAXT

Amazon (Canada): https://is.gd/1pX3Bn

Kobo: https://is.gd/5VwbTf

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Edgy Cozies

Edgy cozies. Nancy Cole Silverman calls her Carol Childs Mystery series “cozies with a bite.” Mollie Cox Bryan writes “cozies with an edge.” And the tagline for my Hazel Rose Book Group series: “cozy with a hint of noir.”

What is an edgy cozy? Let’s back up for a minute: what is a cozy?

Jayne Ormerod, friend and cozy mystery writer, offers this definition:

So let’s take a moment to talk about everything you’ve always wanted to know about cozy mysteries, but were afraid to ask.  First stop, Merriam Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary.  Mystery: a piece of fiction dealing usu. with the solution of a mysterious crime. Cozy:  Enjoying or affording warmth and ease.  Snug.  So “cozy mystery” is an oxymoron, of sorts, but it is a term used to define a sub-genre of mystery that has a warm fuzzy feeling about it.  Think Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.  Or “Murder, She Wrote”’s Jessica Fletcher.  Or the intrepid Girl Detective, Nancy Drew.  Yes, there’s a distasteful criminal element involved, but the sleuth is so charming and clever that the reader thinks of them as a friend and enjoys tagging along on the adventure.  It’s the kind of book you want to grab a cup of tea and a fleece blanket then curl up by a nice crackling fire to enjoy.  A “cozy” scenario, you’ll agree, and hence the term.

I think Jayne defines cozies nicely. Now on to the “edgy” sort of cozy:

Some use the terms “traditional mystery” and “edgy cozy” interchangeably. In an effort to distinguish between cozy/cozy and edgy/cozy/traditional mystery, here are the top quotes from the Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room blog post “Cozy vs. Traditional”:

“That real world vs ‘cozy world’” feel is probably the key difference between the two genres for me.”

“Traditional mysteries, like cozies, sit at the limited gore and violence end of the spectrum, with people and relationships still central to the story, but the feel is more real world.”

Social issues, like racial equality, reproductive rights, and domestic violence may be part of the plot or sub-plot of an edgy cozy. Mollie Cox Bryan, author of the Cumberland Creek series and the Cora Crafts mysteries, has this to contribute:

The cozy mystery genre has a certain set of “rules.” Mine adhere to most of the rules, but I do label my books as “cozies with an edge.” Sometimes there’s a bit of cussing, which you’d most likely not find in a straight cozy. Also, my characters grapple with some dark issues, like human trafficking, the dangers of the darknet, abuse, mental health issues, cults, shady adoption practices, and drugs. Most cozies shy away from these sorts of issues. I do take a lighter look at those issues than, say, a suspense writer would.

Watch Richard’s Edgy Cozy Recommendation on YouTube’s The Cozy Book Nook. He recommends the gritty and raw (but still cozy) Grave Sight, #1 in the Harper Connelly series by Charlaine Harris.

Christine Goff on A Parliament of Owls, from The Birdwatcher’s Mysteries: “Some people would tell you I write an “edgy cozy,” but I prefer to think of my books as traditional mysteries.”

Cricket McRae, author of the Home Crafting Mysteries: “So now I call my books contemporary cozies, because I guess that’s what they really are – a little faster, a teensy bit more edgy …”

Perhaps distinguishing between the fine points of mysteries for the purpose of categorizing bores you to tears. “I just want to read a good story,” you cry.

I understand. I read all kinds of mysteries: cozies (edgy and non-edgy), private detective (Sue Grafton’s Y is for Yesterday comes out in August!), and police procedurals. I don’t read tales with gratuitous violence. As for psychopaths, no thanks.

My favorites are the stories defy categorization: they may feature an amateur detective, but there’s nothing remotely “cozy” about them. No matter what I’m reading, what I value most is a good story with compelling characters and an interesting setting.

As for my Hazel Rose Book Group series, some think it’s cozy because Hazel is an amateur sleuth. And she has cats. Others think it’s dark and edgy. But readers tell me they like the stories and they like Hazel, so that’s of the most importance to me. If you haven’t, I invite you to read my series and tell me what you think.

In addition to the above, these selected authors pen edgy cozies (they run the gamut from mildly edgy to extremely so):

Agatha Christie

Dianne Emley (Iris Thorne series)

Joanne Guidoccio

Melodie Johnson Howe

Mary Miley

Gillian Roberts

Nancy Cole Silverman

Joan Smith

Who else? Add your favorites in the comment section.

It’s summertime. Take your favorite cozy, edgy or not, to the beach or poolside.

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TV for those long, hot days of summer

Do you love watching mysteries on TV as much as I do? How about gripping political dramas (the fictional kind for me)? Here are four shows that I highly recommend to get you through the long, hot days of summer (or any climate):

The Dr. Blake Mysteries This Australian production is set in 1950s Victoria. Dr. Blake operates a general medical practice in Ballarat, but it’s his role as police surgeon that gives him opportunities to investigate the many murders that befall the community. Dr. Blake is a troubled soul, bound and determined to right the world’s wrongs.

I’ve seen Series 1 and 2 so far. As of this writing, series 4 hasn’t been released in the US. Dr. Blake spurred me to write this post in April: “The Land Down Under: Books, Film, and a Geography Lesson.”

Borgen is a Danish political drama that focuses on Birgitte Nyborg Christensen, first female Prime Minister of Denmark. Danish politics are as cutthroat as they are in any country (perhaps not as much as here in the good old USA). Follow Birgitte through the vicissitudes of politics and her challenges as a wife and mother. Journalists and news anchors provide intriguing subplots.

Brunetti is based on Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti series. The actors in the German TV adaptation speak—no surprise—German, which can be startling until you get accustomed to it. The moody and at times haunting Venice setting is the same as in the novels.

Watch a trailer for Brunetti and listen to the beautiful soundtrack.

The West Wing is quite a departure from the above—although it is along the lines of Borgen. I must say I had to get used to the American accents! I didn’t watch this political drama during its prime time run from 1999-2006, but once I started renting the DVDs in 2016 I didn’t stop until President Josiah Bartlett (played to perfection by Martin Sheen) finished his eight years in office and handed the reins to his successor. This almost coincided with the 2017 Inauguration. I’ll cut off any political commentary and comparisons at this point.

A few more for your consideration:
Agatha Raisin

Grantchester  Season 3 is currently running on PBS

Fog and Crimes

Murdoch Mysteries

Vera

For more suggestions, see this recent post from Lethal Lady Mollie Cox Bryan (she includes books).

What shows do you enjoy? Recommendations are welcome.

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Missing Authors: Update 4

My long-awaited “Missing Author” series is back! Since I last updated in January, I’ve had a number of requests. In March, I guest posted for a week on Sue Ann Jaffarian’s Fan Club (great experience!). Many of my requests came from one of those posts.

Without further ado, read on for the latest updates.

Annette Blair, author of the Vintage Magic mysteries, set in Connecticut

Here’s Annette’s response to my inquiry on her status:

Maggie, I will be writing more mysteries, but I have to wait to get the rights back from Random House. I’m working on new Rogues right now, Rogues 5 & 6. And I should have the rights back to the witches this spring. I went missing because of four years worth of surgeries, months of rehab, horrible side effects and of course depression with all that. But I am back to writing again. Thanks for letting the readers know.

Joyce Christmas, author of the Betty Trenka and the Lady Margaret Priam series.

Joyce Christmas passed away in 2012. Read her obit.

Earlene Fowler, author of the Benni Harper quilting mysteries, set on California’s central coast.

On February 15, 2017 she responded to an inquiry about a new book on her Facebook page: “Not writing currently, personal and professional reasons. So sorry.”

Graham Landrum, author of the The Social Club Mysteries in Borderville, Virginia.

Graham Landrum died in 1995. Here is an article about his last book, The Garden Club Mystery, published posthumously by his son.

I must read The Garden Club Mystery, as I once served as Administrator for the Garden Club of Virginia.

Lia Matera, author of the Willa Jansson mysteries, set in San Francisco

Read Lia’s response to my inquiry:

Hi, Maggie. Thanks for asking! I do hope to finish the manuscripts I’ve been working on soon… or soonish. (Or maybe, at this rate, I should say eventually.) But then the books will have to find homes, and if they do, they’ll be in the pipeline for a year or two. So for now, I’m answering to Lia Who? and wasting time on facebook & twitter when I should be working.

Stephanie Matteson, author of the Charlotte Graham mysteries

All I can find are indications that she’s been involved in the corporate world for the past several years, especially in the solar energy field. She wrote her Charlotte Graham series in the 1990s.

Deborah Sharp, author of the Mace Bauer Mysteries, set in Florida

Read Deborah’s response to my inquiry:

Hi, there … I’m so flattered that readers still ask about me! I love the idea of your blog post tracking down MIA authors. The “Whatever Happened To . . . ?” stories were always favorites of mine to write back in my journalism days. As for me, I never planned that my fifth book, Mama Gets Trashed, would be the last when it came out in 2013. In fact, I had completed a 35-page outline for Book 6, had a title — Mama Gets Schooled — and a commitment from my publisher, Midnight Ink. Unfortunately, life intervened. Health issues, care-taking for my elderly mother, and family responsibilities just seemed to sap the “funny” right out of me. When I sat down to write the book, I found I just didn’t have the heart to do it. I’ve been surprised by how much I miss my characters (not to mention the lovely readers!) My mother — the real mama — recently passed away at 102. I’m not sure if I will return to writing, but if I do, it would likely be to my series, because I love those folks in fictional Himmarshee, Fla. Currently, though, I’m enjoying the freedom I have to travel, read, and do not much of anything, frankly. I kind of like being a lazybones!

S.T. Haymon, author of a series featuring Ben Jurnet, a detective inspector, in Norfolk, England

Sylvia Theresa Haymon passed away in 1995.

Here’s information a reader sent for author Marianne Macdonald and CJ Songer, featured in my January post:

Marianne lives in London, but is in poor health. Her sons were caring for her but have not heard from her for over a year and do not have contact with the sons.

I forwarded your address to CJ Songer.

Note: So far, CJ Songer has not contacted me.

I receive many requests for authors I’ve posted about before. Click on the following names to see the earlier post:

Madelyn Alt

Jill Churchill

Selma Eichler

Jerrilyn Farmer

Stephen Greenleaf He has his backlist on Kindle now

Sue Henry

Karen Kijewski

John J. Lamb

Valerie Wolzien

Thank you readers, for wanting to know what happened to your favorite mystery authors who, for whatever reason, haven’t published in a while.

If you have information on the status of an author included in these posts please leave a comment. And if you have a favorite author who hasn’t written in some time and isn’t included on one of the above posts, include the name(s) in the comments section and I’ll see what I can find out. It may take me some time but I will get back to you, either personally or in an upcoming blog post.

One thing’s for sure—there are a lot of missing authors out there!

Some are easy to find, while some are not. Fortunately, many still maintain websites and are active on social media so I can contact them. Often life circumstances put her or his writing on hold. Some are making a comeback with a new series. Sadly, I find that some have left us for the great beyond. Others have seemingly vanished.

I have more authors to research. I’m waiting on responses to a number of inquiries—Earl Emerson, Jane Haddam, Beverly Taylor Herald, M.D. Lake, Barbara Taylor McCafferty, Beth Sherman, Christine Wenger, and more. I may have to reach out to publishers. So look for an update this summer, earlier than usual.

In the meantime, I’ll have to check out Madelyn Alt’s series—she’s my #1 request.

Find bibliographies for the above authors on Stop You’re Killing Me, a great resource for mystery lovers.

Posts from my “Missing Authors” series, in chronological order:

Missing Rochelle Krich

Discovering a Lost Author: John J. Lamb

Whatever Happened to Gabrielle Kraft?

Whatever Happened to (Name an Author)?

In Memory of My Favorite Mystery Authors (And Maybe Yours)

Those Missing Authors: An Update

Missing Author Found!

Missing Authors: Update 2

“Missing Authors: Update 3”

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