cozy

“Four Books, Four Genres for Fall”

 

Can't quite decide what to read this Fall? Here are four absorbing suggestions for your reading pleasure.

 

Racing
"Kiss the Bricks" by Tammy Kaehler

“Kiss the Bricks” is the 5th in the Kate Reilly Racing Mystery series, each set at a different major race track. This title refers to the tradition of the winner of the Indianapolis 500 kneeling down to kiss the yard of bricks at the finish line.

 

Kate puts in the fastest time at the first practice session at Indy, a feat done only once before by a woman (PJ) dead thirty years before, supposedly by suicide because of the stress of race week. But as the press would have it, Kate and the other woman become linked for all the wrong reasons. As if competing in the Indy 500 wasn’t enough of a challenge, Kate must fight against gender bias in one of the most male dominated sports events on the planet, prove that PJ didn’t commit suicide, and that she (Kate) is capable of holding her own on the track. PLUS, take care of her sponsor responsibilities, and deal with harsh realizations about her own team.

 

Except for actually being there, I have never felt so close to the track as when reading Tammy Kaehler’s mystery series. I was in the car with Kate as she strategically shifted through the turns, assessed the responsiveness of the car, and tested her limits as a driver. Kaehler gives us an intimate look inside the world of competitive racing, as well as the rivalries on and off the oval. If you love fast cars and have ever wondered what it would be like to do a few laps on the big tracks, read all five books and enjoy the mysteries as the pages fly by.

 

Kidnapping
"Say Nothing"  by Brad Parks

Books centered around kidnapping often involve important people with boatloads of money (or kidnapping insurance) who will spend anything to get their loved ones back. They become targets for extortion and blackmail, because of all that money or power. In “Say Nothing,” Judge Sampson’s twins are kidnapped and he jumps through hoops to keep his integrity, yet meet the never-ending demands of the kidnapper. In court, Sampson is compelled to rule in the kidnapper’s favor, but even that ruling results in an unexpected outcome. He and his wife despair of there ever being a positive outcome.

 

“Say Nothing” is a departure from the average kidnapping tome, with its jaw-dropping twists and turns, deceptions and lies timed so perfectly that Parks dares you to put the book down before finding out what happens on the next page. Spouses and relatives turn on each other in tragic ways, while colleagues are left in the dark about the judge’s erratic behavior on the bench. Can he save his children? Will he be able to continue to say nothing? “Say Nothing” is a barnburner of a book.

 

Senior Sleuth Cozy Mystery

"Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody" by Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross’ new series begins with a glorious look behind the scenes at a dysfunctional adult community with all its squabbles, jealousies, and competitions. Jane Darrowfield is hired to analyze the problems that plague the manager of Walden Spring. She is tasked to make suggestions to improve the toxic atmosphere before word gets out and sales completely stop at this gated housing area for the over 60 crowd. Jane’s observation right away: “Just like high school, with the cool kids at one table.”
 

Can the place be rescued from its unruly residents? More than one mystery is discovered, and when accusations are made, secrets are unveiled with tragic consequences. Real-life baby boomers will laugh at the shenanigans because after all, that stuff doesn’t really happen, does it? As a visitor to a few senior communities around the country, I can tell you (except for the murder) Ross’ descriptions and observations are spot on.  lolol  

 

Jane Darrowfield is a refreshing new protagonist, a little surprised that anyone would pay $800 a day for her guidance, but she has solid sleuthing skills and no-nonsense advice. She makes a rather good busybody. Toss in an unexpected romance for Jane along with great friends, and we have a terrific launch to the series. I can’t wait for the next book.

 

True Crime

"Unholy Covenant" by Lynn Chandler Willis

“Unholy Covenant” is a fascinating fictional (some names and details have been changed to protect the innocent) account of Patricia Kimble’s real-life murder in small town North Carolina. Willis, former newspaper owner/reporter, followed the Kimble case throughout the investigations and during the trial, and had access to all the major players. I was thoroughly engaged as Willis described what led up to the murder of this inconvenient wife.

 

Friends and neighbors of the victim knew that Patricia was madly in love with her husband well before they married, but Ted Kimble was a player. The marriage may have been the result of a wish to own a local business. “Marry the right girl, get the business" – Kimble’s friend and mentor promised.

 

But, there is more to the story and Willis skillfully lays out all the drama in absorbing detail, giving us a chilling look at the ways Kimble manipulated those in his life. He ruled his corner of the world by fear, lies, intimidation, and a bit of charm, taking advantage of the weaknesses he saw in the people around him. Investigations into the murder, arson, and burglary ring associated with the case revealed a greedy side to Ted Kimble, a preacher’s son, that was his eventual undoing.

 

Kimble’s bizarre behavior after the murder, including accusations, confessions, and hit lists, did nothing to help his standing in the community. After a break in the case, Ted and his brother, Ron, were finally convicted of the grisly murder of Ted’s wife, Patricia, and are now in prison serving their life sentences for murder, burglary, and arson.

 

 

“The Gun Also Rises” & “Let’s Fake a Deal” by Sherry Harris


 

Sherry Harris has delivered two exciting new books in her Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery series. “The Gun Also Rises” and “Let’s Fake a Deal” continue to follow Sarah’s life as a former military spouse who is (mostly) successful at navigating singlehood and establishing her own identity and livelihood.

 

Sarah Winston is a warm, relatable character and when she has moments of doubt, we struggle with her, weigh the pluses and minuses of her romantic choices, cheer her achievements, and groan when tragic/terrible events take over her life. She has a delightfully varied recurring support system of friends who lend texture to the stories and act as sounding boards. Sarah even has a serious ‘don’t-ask-what-he-does-for-a-living’ backup guy when needed in tight situations. We know that Sarah will eventually get through the latest challenge, but Harris creates a world so compelling that we enjoy every question, every impulsive move, and every ‘gotcha’ moment along the way.

 

 

 

In “The Gun Also Rises,” Sarah takes on her wealthiest client yet, the owner of perhaps the most extensive collection of mystery novels ever assembled. While Sarah appraises and prices the books, a treasure is uncovered – so valuable that people are willing to kill for it. Complete with scheming relatives, a stalker, a group of cult-like League of Literary Treasure Hunters, Sarah’s reporter brother Luke, clever plotting, and an original take on a famous real life missing manuscript, “The Gun Also Rises” surprises and entertains from start to finish.

 

 

 


“Two police cars squealed to a halt at the end of the driveway, lights flashing, front bumpers almost touching.” That’s the eye-popping beginning line for Let’s Fake a Deal.” Everything at Sarah Winston’s latest garage sale has been stolen from the actual homeowners and Sarah is arrested for being in possession of those stolen goods. Worse yet, the storage unit that contained the goods until the sale, had been rented using her credit card. Say what? Sarah Winston is the victim of identity theft.

 

In addition to that hot topic, Harris takes a look at sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the military in “Let’s Fake a Deal.” The decisions that women in the military must make – that men rarely face – are highlighted: report the incidents and face the innuendo and name-calling (and worse) while the case is adjudicated – or accept the objectionable behavior and keep to the chosen career path. Another timely theme, indeed.

 

Several great characters assist Sarah’s efforts to find the real thieves and to prove that her friend did not commit murder. Angelo and Rosalie are back and supportive as ever, dishing out advice and the best pizza anywhere in New England. Luke makes a brotherly appearance in tandem with another character, help comes from an unexpected source, and investigations reveal some astonishing associations – including a shocking link with the past. “Let’s Fake a Deal” includes an important romantic turn of events and if she can stay out of jail, Sarah’s future is hers to choose.

 

One of the reasons that the Sarah Winston series works so well is the importance of relationships between the characters. There are natural, warm connections that evolve with the storylines, that ebb and flow as they would with real friends and family. I come to the end of each book, wishing the next one was already at my fingertips.

 

Start with the first book in the series, “Tagged for Death,” and read them all.

 

 

Author Profile: Julie Hennrikus

 


 

Meet Julie Hennrikus, a multi-talented author with three names and three different mystery series:

  • The Clock Shop series by Julianne Holmes

 

  • The Theater Cop series by J.A. Hennrikus

 

  • The Garden Squad series by Julia Henry

 

NBR: Your first series was about a Clock Shop. How did that come to be?

Julie: It’s an interesting story, actually. There was an editor who had an idea for a series. More than an idea, a pretty full book bible for a three book series. She was looking for a writer. Through some opportunistic happenings (partly thanks to Barbara Ross), I was suggested as a writer to the editor. I wrote a proposal, and got the opportunity to write the three books in the series. I’d never imagined that that would be how I was first published, but what a wonderful opportunity. I’d been trying to sell A Christmas Peril for a while, so I was grateful to have the opportunity to write the three Clock Shop books, to get them published, and to learn more about that side of the writing life. Also, I loved the series! The first book was greatly influenced by the editor’s ideas (she was so great to work with), but the next two had more and more input from me.

 

NBR: Writing as Julianne Holmes, the first book in the Clock Shop series, “Killing Time,” was so well crafted that Ms. Hennrikus received an Agatha Award nomination in the Best First Mystery category.

I was in the audience for the Best First panel at Malice Domestic when Margaret Maron interviewed the five finalists in the category. Look closely at Julie’s outfit (clock fabric). She was completely into the Clock Shop role and the onlookers loved it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


NBR: Read the review for "Just Killing Time" here.

 


 

NBR: About the Theater Cop series – were you ever an actor or was your theater work always behind the scenes?

Julie: I always wanted to be an actor, but I was never that brave! Maybe I’ll find the courage as I get older. I’ve made a career working behind the scenes. I’ve run box offices, company managed shows, done marketing, run a service organization. I’ve also taught arts management classes for close to 15 years. The list is long. I love the performing arts, and am blessed to have found a way to make a life in the field.

 

NBR: With the Clock Shop series getting great reviews, Ms. Hennrikus found a home for “A Christmas Peril,” and the series highlights much of the behind-the-scenes life in the theater world.

 

 

 

 

 

 


NBR: Read my review of "A Christmas Peril" here.

 

 

 

Book #2 in the series, “With A Kiss I Die,” is out now.

 

 

NBR: It looks as if you created your own arts related business. Is this a fulltime job outside of the writing?

Julie: A year ago I started Your Ladders. Most artists are taught the craft of their work, but nothing about the business side of the arts. Your Ladders is a subscription that artists can use to learn the business side of show business without having to go back to school. Getting it up and running has been more than full time, but my goal is to incorporate my writing life more and more. So many folks who have creative pursuits have to work several jobs to make it all work. I’m one of those people. But the jobs I have–writing, teaching, running Your Ladders–are all joyful pursuits.

 

My goal has been, is, to empower artists on their journey. As a published author, I navigate my own artistic journey, and know that the skills I teach have helped me move from writer to multi-published author.

 

 

NBR: The new Garden Squad series features gardening. Do you have a garden?  Photos? Tips?

Julie: I used to have a house, and loved gardening. My sister Caroline is an amazing gardener, and she is one of my sources for tips. By the way, if any of your readers has a tip they’re willing to share, please do! Here’s a form to fill out. I include tips in the back of the books. (NBR: The list in “Pruning the Dead” is practical and easy to use.)

 

There is something so joyful about gardening, isn’t there? I love writing this new Garden Squad series, and exploring the different ways of gardening. I was worried about the seasonality of the books, but Lilly Jayne has a greenhouse, so it’s working out. I’m still not exactly sure how I was inspired to create Goosebush and all the characters in the series, but I’m so glad that I was. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


NBR: Read my review of "Pruning the Dead" here.

 

 

Book #2 in the series, "Tilling the Truth," will be out later this month.

 

NBR: Do you have pets?

Julie: I do! Three years ago, a friend reached out. She was trying to place two cats who had been found in an abandoned house in Stamford, Connecticut. They both have FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus), so they couldn’t be placed in a shelter. I adopted them both, and named them Fred and Ginger. Ginger was likely feral, and it took her a while to settle in. She is now a lovebug who is this close to being a lap cat. Fred is a big boy, a gray tuxedo cat. They think he was dumped, because he was fixed when they found him. He’s settled in as well. They are probably around 5 now, and are great company.

 

 

NBR: What is your favorite place to vacation?

Julie: My folks have a place on Cape Cod, so I love visiting there. And my grandparents had a place on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, and some of my happiest memories are there. But I’ve take two river cruises with my friends Marianne and Stephanie in the past five years. I know that a river cruise isn’t a place, but what a wonderful way to travel!

 

 

NBR: Are you a city gal or country gal?

Julie: I am a city gal. I live in Somerville, MA, which is a small city right outside Boston. I love the convenience, the plethora of things to do, and the different opportunities the city offers. That said, I do enjoy visits to the country. Though dead silence keeps me up at night.

NBR: LOL Me, too! I need at least crickets in the background.

 

 

NBR: Many cozy/mystery writers include food and/or cooking scenes in their books. You do that as well, especially in “Pruning the Dead.” Do you have any favorite foods or recipes?

Julie: My grandmother taught me how to bake. I have a very soft spot for pies, and make a mean apple pie if I do say so. I bake with my nieces and tell them stories about Grandma so they know her, and they also get the recipes. Her secret, by the way, was to overseason. One teaspoon of cinnamon is one tablespoon. One quarter teaspoon of nutmeg is one full teaspoon.

NBR: Great tip. I upped the seasoning in my apple tart this past weekend and the flavor really pops!

 

Julie: As for other food? I’m a decent cook, and love all sorts of food. I love going out to dinner, but at home I cook for myself. Unless I’m on deadline. Then I order a pizza and eat it for a few days.

 

 

NBR: Do you write every day? What is your favorite time to write and where?

Julie: My goal is to write every day. It is surprisingly hard to get started and to do it, but writing gives me such joy. I am a plotter, which makes a daily practice a bit easier, since I work hard at the roadmap, so sitting down and writing is a bit easier.

 

Up until last August I had an office job, so I only wrote nights and weekends. It’s so hard to get out of that habit! But now that I’m running my own business I find that my best time writing is early afternoon. I wish I could say that writing at my desk works best, but I have a big red couch, and sitting on that with my laptop is my favorite writing place.

 

Recently I got an iPad, and I installed Scrivener on it. I used the iPad to do the edits on my most recent manuscript as well. That has made my writing life much more transportable, so I may try writing outside this summer.

 

NBR: It’s rumored that Julie Hennrikus has a WIP (work-in-progress) of a thriller she’s “been noodling for a while.” We shouldn’t expect to see lots of blood in the book, but she admits a car has been blown up. Hmmm…a cozy thriller? If anyone could pull it off, Julie/JA/Julianna could.

 

 
Julie: I tweet under @JHAuthors, am on Pinterest and Instagram, and have a page on Facebook. I also blog on Live to Write/Write to Live, and I blog on Killer Characters on the 20th of each month. My email is jhauthors@jhauthors.com

I blog with the wonderful Wicked Authors. These women are my friends, my blog mates, and my cheering squad. Come by and visit us!

NBR: Back in November, 2018, the recipients of the 3rd annual Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition (MALC) "Champions of Artists" awards were announced. The awards are given to recognize 'exceptional support of the artists community.' Julie was one of the six recipients! We congratulate her for making a difference in the lives of so many artists, both on and off the stage, throughout the years. Bravo!!!

 

Many thanks to Julie Hennrikus for generously sharing so much of her time to answer my questions for the profile.  🙂  Please visit www.jhauthors.com for more about this delightful bestselling author and her books.
 

 

Book List: Author Sherry Harris

 

Sherry Harris writes the Agatha nominated, wonderful Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries.
 

Sarah Winston is a military spouse who must transition to being on her own. Her emotional struggles to make her own way as a newly single woman are realistic, and her scenes detailing military life ring true. Harris’ storylines peel back the layers of Winston’s battle with feelings about her ex in each book, while delivering great mysteries.

 

Have you read all the books in this marvelous series? Take a look at the book list below, listed in order, with links included.

 

 

 

"Tagged for Death”   read review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"The Longest Yard Sale”  read review here.  

 

 

 

 

 

All Murders Final

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"A Good Day to Buy”   read review here.

 

 

 

 

 

I Know What You Bid Last Summer


 

 

 

 

The Gun Also Rises” read review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and…. “Let’s Fake A Deal”  read review here.

 

Sherry’s other writing includes:

A short story called “Country Song Gone Wrong” in the Deadly Southern Charm anthology from the Central VA chapter of Sisters in Crime. It's a Sarah Winston story — She goes to Virginia.

 

Good news for Mrs. Harris’ fans – a future series is in the works:  In 2020, the first book of the Chloe Jackson Sand Dollar Saloon mysteries comes out – “From Beer to Eternity.”

 

The Sherry Harris Author Profile can be read here.

 

Please visit https://sherryharrisauthor.com to see what else Sherry is up to.  🙂
 


(Photos courtesy of Sherry Harris)

 

 

“Murder in an English Village” by Jessica Ellicott

 

“Murder in an English Village” is the first title in the wonderful new Beryl and Edwina Mystery series by Jessica Ellicott (aka Jessie Crockett/Jessica Estevao). Old school mates, Beryl Helliwell and Edwina Davenport, have lived wildly different lives since leaving Finishing School. American Beryl has been a world traveler and well known adventuress, while English Edwina has lived quietly in Walmsley Parva in picturesque southern England. But Beryl is tired of the demands of public life and Edwina needs a boarder now that her post WW1 income has shriveled. A perfect setup for the old chums to meet again after all these years.

 

Beryl discovers the seriousness of Edwina’s plight, but when she takes it upon herself to pay the shopkeepers for some of Edwina’s bills, she also attempts to divert the gossip about Edwina’s situation with an outlandish lie she reveals to the biggest gossip in town.

 

Beryl persuades Edwina that the BIG LIE will not remain one if they work together to solve a few crimes. What crimes? Warmsley Parva is a fairly quiet place…or is it? The seemingly peaceful village has a great many secrets, some tragically kept to preserve reputations. Villains parade as upstanding citizens with devastating consequences.

 

Ellicott’s marvelously descriptive writing transports us to rustic English cottages, dressed country fields, one phone in a sparsely populated countryside, and small shops showing their wear, while revealing societal views about women of 100 years ago. It was a hard life for everyone worldwide that lived during WW1, but England took years longer to adjust to the new economic reality with money, food, and manpower shortages. In a masterful touch of subtlety, Ellicott shows how Edwina’s financial circumstances change because of Beryl’s presence, and dinners become more varied. Even the occasional outing for tea can be enjoyed.

 

One of the interesting historical references in “Murder in an English Village” is The Women’s Land Army, a government program initiated because able-bodied men that might otherwise have been farming the land, were off fighting for home and country. Women committed to a year to work the land, but despite doing a great service, the women were not always looked upon with favor, considered by some to be a lesser class of citizen. This attitude was exploited by some and used to great effect in the book through Ellicott’s deft character development.

 

“Murder in an English Village” is both historically enlightening and entertaining, launching the new series with two engaging, intelligent women who will capture your hearts and minds.

 

Please visit https://www.jessicaellicott.com for more information about the talented Ms. Ellicott and the next book in the series, “Murder Flies the Coop,” out in September, 2019.

 

“Pruning the Dead” by Julia Henry

 

“Pruning the Dead” is the first book in the marvelous new Garden Squad Mystery series from Julia Henry (aka JA Hennrikus/Julianne Holmes). Lilly Jayne is a charming 65 y.o. expert gardener, quietly accepting of her beloved husband’s illness and passing. In the real world, it takes a while to heal emotionally from that kind of life trauma and Henry hits all the right notes of grief and recovery, including the friends that nudge Lilly ever so gently to return to former activities.

 

Pat French, the Queen of Bureaucrats at City Hall, fines people that have slightly oversized mailboxes and leave trash receptacles too close to the street. Except for foreclosure notices, there are no warnings, merely multiplying fines. This is not a gated community with strict compliance expected by the residents, this is a diverse small town. French's  regulations are so ridiculous as to keep repairs from getting completed – because the repairs might not live up to code? As we say in the South, “Good grief, she needs a whoopin’ – her mama didn’t raise her right!”

 

A park cleanup is underway when the body of a conniving moneygrubber is discovered on top of the mulch, and the Garden Squad gets organized. They must dig into the many secrets of the dead woman that almost everyone hated, while solving the mystery of the zealous city hall clerk. The picture of stealthy Goosebush Garden Squad do-gooders of a certain age weeding and plotting at midnight, is a hoot to imagine as they skulk and whisper through the neighborhoods.

 

“Pruning the Dead” has a lively cast of business owners and friends with roots in Goosebush that go way back, plus a newbie garden lover that may be the perfect more-than-friend companion for Lilly in the future. And he just happens to live next door… Henry's descriptive phrasing delivers fully-fleshed out characters we'd love to serve on committees with and take out to lunch. They feel like friends for life, delightful for a continuing series. The villains are equally well drawn, creating off-center realities and excuses for themselves while wreaking havoc on everyone else.

 

Henry gives a nod to aching knees and creaky backs of senior citizens, while also showing that brains don’t shrivel just by virtue of reaching the ripe young age of 60. Each of the members provides different skill sets: organization/planning, computer knowledge, horticultural expertise, close connection to the police department, and deep pockets. Combining skills with savvy life experiences, “Pruning the Dead” is a terrific homage to the active, productive boomer crowd that runs the real world. Never underestimate the power of senior citizens. You’ll never, ever outsmart them.

 

There are helpful gardening tips throughout “Pruning the Dead,” and a special list at the end. I can’t wait to see what happens to Lilly Jayne and her Goosebush Garden Squad in book #2, “Tilling the Truth.” Is it August yet? (update: It's out now!)

 

Please visit www.jhauthors.com for more about this multi-talented author and her other work, as well as the books written under her other names.   

 

 

 

“Murder on Cape Cod” by Maddie Day

 

 

“Murder on Cape Cod” is the first title in a new series by Maddie Day (aka Edith Maxwell), Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery. Mac (MacKenzie) Almeida belongs to a cozy book club in fictional Westham on Cape Cod, that gathers at different houses to discuss the book of the week. After a meeting one night, she trips over a body on her way home – not quite the same as reading about the fictional bodies on the page.

 

To make matters worse, Mac knew the dead man, an often unpleasant, frequently unreliable handyman, with surprising connections to several members of the community. Why was he killed and by whom? The evidence left at the scene implicates only one person, but how could that be? The prime suspect goes missing, confusing matters for everyone. Guilty people don’t flee, do they?

 

Mac is a bike shop owner and is in a unique position to see lots of people pass by the window every day. She can recognize anyone out of place and since there is absolutely nothing impersonal about a small town, plausible suspects keep popping up.

 

One of the several interesting plotlines cleverly intertwines employee difficulties at the bike shop with the murder. Day uses the real-world challenges of small business ownership to complicate matters for Mac – getting workers to show up on time, dealing with impatient customers, honoring ‘the customer is always right’ credo. I felt as if I was right there in the store.

 

“Murder on Cape Cod” contains plenty of local food discussions at mealtimes. It’s especially fun to read that Mac loves good food, but does a lot of take-out. In Real Life, Day is a talented amateur chef, a personal detail that shines through her descriptions of various dishes in her other series Country Store Mysteries as well as those in this new series. Yummy sounding recipes are included in the back of the book. Cozy readers will also be delighted at the way Day inserts titles of actual cozy mysteries and their characters into the conversations.

 

Day’s writing is crisp in “Murder on Cape Cod” and her multi-layered plot features a cast of characters both diverse and perfectly suited for life in the ebb and flow of a tourist town. Mac’s caring and reliable boyfriend has his own business and Day shows us a rock-solid couple, enjoying each other and their time together, without being joined at the hip. Mac’s father is a pastor, and his wife’s interest in astrology plays a role in the story. Mac’s errant brother and her main employee? There are surprising reveals. And it has to be said: a huge round of applause to Maddie Day for writing a refreshing octogenarian grandmother who is feisty and quite capable of managing her own life.

 

“Murder on the Cape” is a solid page-turner, with a strong new female character, who can’t help herself when wanting to discover the truth. I look forward to the rest of the series.  🙂

 

Please visit www.edithmaxwell.com for more information about the Cozy Capers Book Group.

 

 

 

 

 

Author Profiles

Recent Comments

Subscribe to Newsletter