Friday, January 30, 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Sulphur Springs Valley Weekly Link Round-Up

One week later and my afghan has gained at least three feet in length, and Denis and I have celebrated another wedding anniversary. A relaxing week down in our favorite cottage in the Mule Mountains outside of Bisbee, Arizona, just north of the Mexican border was just what we needed. We got to see some beautiful sunsets, I went bananas shopping for yarn, and we drove over to Whitewater Draw to see all the sandhill cranes. We also had to make an extra trip to the grocery store because we had two deer coming right up to the cottage because they found apples to be irresistible. From the looks of the ground we may also have been visited by a javalina or two. I also saw a pair of titmice from the bathroom window. One of the reasons why I love this place is its wildlife.

Sandhill cranes at Whitewater Draw

The Sulphur Springs Valley is one of the premier birding spots in the world, and I can see why. Every time we go to Whitewater Draw, I see a species of bird that I've never seen before. You might want to open the photo above in a new window so you can see the detail better. Well over 20,000 sandhill cranes come to winter in the Sulphur Springs Valley each year. They like to go out to feed early in the morning and come back to their roosting sites for an afternoon nap. They then go out to feed again, and then you can watch them come in for the night as the sun sets behind the mountains. Once you've heard the calls of sandhill cranes, you will never forget the sound. There's a lot more to Cochise County, Arizona than Tombstone, gold/silver/copper mining, and Geronimo and Cochise!

Oops... I did manage to come home and rustle up some links for y'all, so I'd best get to it. Head 'em up! Move 'em out!

Books & Other Interesting Tidbits

Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones

I  ♥  Lists

That's all for this week. Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll have a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.

Have a wonderful weekend. Read something fabulous!

Suede to Rest by Diane Vallere

First Line: A breeze rippled through the trees to the left and the right of the storefront.

 After her uncle's death, Poly Monroe takes some time off from her dress designing job at To the Nines to travel to San Ladrón. Thinking it's a simple matter of taking one last look at her family's textile store and signing some papers so she can get the place sold, Poly is surprised at how emotional she gets when she walks into Land of a Thousand Fabrics. She'd forgotten how many wonderful childhood memories are tied to this store.

When circumstances force her to stay in town, Poly quickly discovers that not everyone wants her there. Her store is the last piece of property on the street that a local developer needs to make his dream come true, and other San Ladrón residents haven't made her feel all that welcome either. When Poly finds the body of a member of the Senior Patrol dead behind her shop, she begins to get the feeling that the man's death is somehow linked to a mystery buried in her family's past. Poly wants to make a fresh start-- and she knows she has a murder and a mystery to solve before she can get to work.

Poly (short for Polyester, I kid you not) is a winning main character. Readers see her at a crossroads in her life. Up to this point, she's always settled for feeling and being safe, but now this talented woman with a sharp eye for design and a good sense of humor is ready to embark on something new. 

That something new seems to be bringing Land of a Thousand Fabrics back to life, and Poly is sharp enough to know that she won't be able to bring it back exactly the way it used to be. To survive, Poly is going to have to make changes, and I have to tell you that I'm really looking forward to seeing what they are. The hook in this Material Witness series is fabric, and in Diane Vallere's skillful hands it's a hook that excites yet doesn't overpower the mystery. Poly looks at fabric the same way I look at yarn, so I felt a strong kinship with the character on that point (and others).  To take her mind off all the things that had gone wrong, one night Poly got an idea to spruce up a new friend's business. She spent hours with fabrics and trims, and by the time she was finished, she had a treasure trove of goodies. I was downright disappointed when she never had a chance to deliver the things she made to her friend. I'm hoping to see her reaction in book two!

The secondary characters are also a strength in Suede to Rest. It's refreshing to have a main character whose parents aren't chock full of neuroses. San Ladrón is a small town filled with characters. The Senior Patrol is a group of retired citizens who patrol the streets at various times throughout the day to make sure no one's up to any hanky panky. In this first book, their role appears to be that of gossip mongers rather than crime busters because plenty happens that they don't seem to see. Yes, San Ladrón does have a bit of an edge. All the residents don't welcome Poly with open arms, but she does make friends like the Lopez family who own and operate a local bakery.

Although I did find the killer to be rather easily guessed, Vallere has laid a solid foundation for her series with a strong setting, a cast of fascinating characters-- and a fabric store I'd love to spend some money in once it's cleaned up. Bring on book two!

Suede to Rest by Diane Vallere
ISBN: 9780425270578
Berkley Prime Crime © 2014
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Cozy Mystery, #1 Material Witness mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Maharani's Pearls by Charles Todd

First Line: "Bess, for God's sake, what are you doing?"

The Maharani is coming for tea, and Simon finally finds ten-year-old Bess Crawford having her fortune told in the marketplace of a nearby village. Bess is unwilling to leave, since she wants to be told if romance and adventure are in her future, but when the seer only tells her of impending danger, Bess allows Simon to take her home. 

The Maharani's visit isn't the usual social call. Her husband has political enemies, and she's come to ask Major Crawford for help. It's only as the Maharani is leaving that Bess thinks of what the seer told her. There's something not quite right about the Maharani's entourage, and when Bess tells her father what she's seen, Major Crawford has to hope that he and his men can get to the Maharani in time. But that's not the only danger the fortune teller has foreseen....

This little short story is an excellent addition to Charles Todd's Bess Crawford series. We get to see Bess as a curious, brave and smart little girl-- a ten-year-old miniature of the woman she will become-- and we can also appreciate the younger versions of her parents. Simon, once again, remains pretty well hidden in the shadows so I'm hoping that one day soon the spotlight will turn on him. 

There's one thing that may strain many readers' credulity: at a moment of extreme danger, soldiers believe everything that Bess tells them and then allow her to put herself in the line of fire. I have to admit that this did strain my own suspension of disbelief a bit, but I handled it. These soldiers under the command of her father are well acquainted with Bess and would know that she's a level-headed, intelligent child. I can see them paying attention to what she has to say. As for them letting her put herself in danger... I really don't think they could've stopped her short of hog-tying her and locking her in a windowless shed. All readers of the Bess Crawford series know that she's unstoppable when she's doing something she passionately believes is right.

This short story is only available for digital download, and the length is given as 96 pages. Be warned. The story is only half that. The remainder is a preview of Charles Todd's upcoming book. I know these "digital shorts" aren't everyone's cup of tea-- especially if you don't have an eReader-- but I enjoy them. The ideas may not be long enough for a traditional novel, but they provide additional insight into characters that I've come to love.

"The Maharani's Pearls" by Charles Todd
eISBN: 9780062369239
Witness Impulse © 2014
eBook, 96 pages

Short Story featuring Bess Crawford
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from Amazon

February 2015 New Mystery Releases!

Once again, it's one of my favorite times-- picking and choosing amongst all the wonderful new crime fiction novels that are going to be released in the next month. There's just something about new books that make me tingle, and I'm pretty sure you all feel the same way.

I've grouped my picks according to release dates, and I've included all the information you'll need to find each and every one at all your favorite "book procurement" sites. Book synopses and covers are courtesy of Amazon.

There's a little something for everyone in this list, so I hope I've chosen a title or two that will make it onto your own wishlists. Happy Reading!

=== February 3 ===

Title: By Book or by Crook
Author: Eva Gates (AKA Vicki Delany)
Series: #1 in the Lighthouse Library cozy series set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina
ISBN: 9780451470935
Publisher: Signet
Mass market Paperback, 352 pages

Synopsis: "For ten years Lucy has enjoyed her job poring over rare tomes of literature for the Harvard Library, but she has not enjoyed the demands of her family’s social whorl or her sort-of-engagement to the staid son of her father’s law partner. But when her ten-year relationship implodes, Lucy realizes that the plot of her life is in need of a serious rewrite.

Calling on her aunt Ellen, Lucy hopes that a little fun in the Outer Banks sun—and some confections from her cousin Josie’s bakery—will help clear her head. But her retreat quickly turns into an unexpected opportunity when Aunt Ellen gets her involved in the lighthouse library tucked away on Bodie Island.

Lucy is thrilled to land a librarian job in her favorite place in the world. But when a priceless first edition Jane Austen novel is stolen and the chair of the library board is murdered, Lucy suddenly finds herself ensnared in a real-life mystery—and she’s not so sure there’s going to be a happy ending.

Title: The Beige Man
Author: Helene Tursten
Series: #7 in the Detective Inspector Irene Huss police procedural series set in Sweden
ISBN: 9781616954000
Publisher: Soho Crime
Hardcover, 320 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Göteborg, Sweden: The high-speed chase of a stolen BMW takes a chilling turn when the two police officers involved witness a gruesome hit-and-run. When they finally recover the abandoned vehicle, search dogs are unable to trace the thieves, but they do uncover an entirely different horror: the half-naked corpse of a young girl in a nearby root cellar.

As Detective Inspector Irene Huss and her colleagues struggle to put the pieces together, they discover the man whose car was stolen—a retired police officer—is none other than the victim in the hit-and-run. Could it be a strange coincidence? Or is something larger at play? Meanwhile, the hunt for the girl’s killer leads Irene into the dark world of sex trafficking. An international criminal has arrived in Göteborg, and he’ll stop at nothing to expand his sinister operation

Title: The Chessmen
Author: Peter May
Series: #3 in the Lewis police procedural series set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland
ISBN: 9781623656041
Publisher: Quercus
Hardcover, 388 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times raved: "Peter May is a writer I'd follow to the ends of the earth." Among the many honors received, The Blackhouse, the first novel in May's acclaimed Lewis trilogy, won the Barry and Crime Thriller Hound awards.

Now in The Chessmen Peter May gives us a dramatic conclusion to his award-winning Lewis trilogy. Living again of the Isle of Lewis, the ex-Detective Inspector Fin McLeod is working as a security officer for a local landowner. While investigating illegal activity on the estate Fin encounters the elusive poacher and former childhood friend Whistler Macaskill.

But while Fin catches up with Whistler, the two witness a freak natural phenomenon--a 'Bog Burst'--which spontaneously drains a loch of its water, revealing a mud-encased light aircraft with a sickeningly familiar moniker on its side.

Both men immediately know hat they will find inside: the body of Roddy Mackenzie, a friend whose flight disappeared more than seventeen years before. But when Whistler's face appears to register something other than shock, an icy chill of apprehension overtakes Fin. What secret has Whistler been hiding from him, and everyone else on the island? Fin is unprepared for how the truth about the past will alter the course of the future."  

Title: Played by the Book
Author: Lucy Arlington (AKA Ellery Adams and Sylvia May)
Series: #4 in the Novel Idea cozy series set in North Carolina
ISBN: 9780425276631  
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
Synopsis: "The owner of the Novel Idea Literary Agency is thrilled when former local boy and popular television show host Damian York returns to Inspiration Valley, North Carolina, to launch his new gardening book. But Lila is less than excited about the hubbub when she sees her mounting to-do list. Between planning York’s gala and sprucing up her yard for another event, she’s spread too thin—especially after she finds a skull buried in her flowerbeds.

As Lila’s macabre discovery leads to other secrets hidden in Inspiration Valley’s past, a member of the local garden club is found slumped over her prize roses—murdered. Now it’s up to Lila to dig through old mysteries and new clues to unearth a murderer before someone else is found pushing up daisies

Title: An Early Wake
Series: #3 in the County Cork cozy series set in Ireland
ISBN: 9780425252536
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Synopsis: "Summer is ending in County Cork, Ireland, and with it the tourist season. Expat Maura Donovan is determined to keep Sullivan’s Pub in the black as the days grow shorter—but how? When she hears that the place was once a hot spot for Irish musicians who’d come play in the back room, she wonders if bringing back live music might be Sullivan’s salvation.

As word gets out, legendary musicians begin to appear at the pub, and the first impromptu jam session brings in scores of music lovers. But things hit a sour note when Maura finds a dead musician in the back room the next morning. With a slew of potential suspects, it’s going to take more than a pint and a good think to force a murderer to face the music

Title: At the Drop of a Hat
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Series: #3 in the Hat Shop cozy series set in England
ISBN: 9780425258910
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Synopsis: "Cousins Scarlett Parker and Vivian Tremont’s fashionable London hat shop, Mim’s Whims, is visited by a new customer bearing an old hat box. Ariana Jackson is getting married and wants to restore her mother’s bridal hat and veil for the occasion. The elegant item was made by Scarlett and Vivian’s grandmother over thirty years ago, so Viv is delighted to take the job.

When Scarlett goes to Ariana's office to consult about the restoration cost, she finds her outside, standing over her boss’s dead body. Though Ariana claims to know nothing about his demise, the investigation unveils a motive for murder. Now, with the bride-to-be in custody and the wedding on hold, Scarlett and Viv must find the real killer before Ariana's future is boxed up for good

Title: The Forgotten Girls
Author: Sara Blaedel
Series: #7 in the Rick and Lind police procedural series set in Copenhagen, Denmark
ISBN: 9781455581528
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hardcover, 320 pages

Synopsis: "Four days later, Louise Rick still had no answers. 

The body of an unidentified woman was discovered in a local forest. A large, unique scar on one side of her face should have made the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. As the new commander of the Missing Persons Department, Louise risks involving the media by releasing a photo of the victim, hoping to find someone who knew her.
Louise's gamble pays off: an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago. Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a "forgotten girl." But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates more than thirty years ago. 
Aided by her friend journalist Camilla Lind, Louise finds that the investigation takes a surprising and unsettling turn when it brings her closer to her childhood home. And as she uncovers more crimes that were committed-and hidden-in the forest, she is forced to confront a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed.

=== February 8 ===

Title: Drawing Conclusions
Author: Deirdre Verne
Series: #1 A Sketch in Crime cozy mystery set in New York state
ISBN: 9780738741314
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Paperback, 312 pages
Synopsis: "Cece Prentice is a most unusual young woman. Heiress to a large fortune thanks to her doctor father, who is the head of a genome company on Long Island, Cece is also a freegan—ecologically-minded and socially conscious. If that happens to include dumpster diving for half an old hamburger, previously started by someone she has never met, then so be it.
 Cece would still be going about her ordinary, albeit weird, life had her beloved twin brother Teddy not been murdered. Drawn into the police investigation, CeCe uses her sketching abilities and knowledge of her father's company to provide Detective DeRosa with the clues he needs to ferret out what happened to Teddy. But she soon realizes that this mystery is much more complicated than she ever imagined.

Title: Death and the Redheaded Woman
Author: Loretta Ross
Series: #1 in the Auction Block cozy series set in Missouri
ISBN: 9780738743936
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Paperback, 264 pages

Synopsis: "As someone who appraises and prepares houses for auction, Wren Morgan has seen her share of fixer-uppers. But when she arrives at her newest project, Wren is unprepared to find something she can't easily fix—a naked, dead man.

Soon after her disturbing discovery, Wren meets Death Bogart, a private investigator and surety recovery agent who's looking for the famous missing jewels of the Campbell family. When it becomes clear that there are actually two sets of lost family jewels, Wren and Death team up to solve not only the mystery of the jewels, but also the naked man's murder. With their case growing more and more complex, though, will they be able to catch the killer and bring home the loot?

=== February 10 ===

Title: Dreamless
Series: #2 in the Odd Singsaker police procedural series set in Norway
ISBN: 9781250016997
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 320 pages

Synopsis: "A promising young singer is found dead in a clearing in a forest, gruesomely murdered—her larynx cut out, and an antique music box placed carefully atop her body, playing a mysterious lullaby that sounds familiar, but that no one can quite place. Chief Inspector Odd Singsaker, of the Trondheim Police Department, still recovering from brain surgery, is called in to investigate.

Singsaker, now married to Felicia Stone, the American detective he met while tracking down a serial killer, fears the worst when another young girl, also known for her melodic singing voice, suddenly goes missing while on a walk with her dog one night. As the Trondheim police follow the trail of this deadly killer, it becomes clear that both cases are somehow connected to a centuries-old ballad called "The Golden Peace," written by a mysterious composer called Jon Blund, in the seventeenth century. This lullaby promises the most sound, sweet sleep to the listener—and as time ticks by, the elusive killer seems as if he will stop at nothing to get his hands on this perfect lullaby

=== February 15 ===

Title: Plague Land
Author: S.D. Sykes
Standalone historical mystery set in medieval England
ISBN: 9781605986739
Publisher: Pegasus
Hardcover, 336 pages

Synopsis: "Oswald de Lacy was never meant to be the Lord of Somerhill Manor. Despatched to a monastery at the age of seven, sent back at seventeen when his father and two older brothers are killed by the Plague, Oswald has no experience of running an estate. He finds the years of pestilence and neglect have changed the old place dramatically, not to mention the attitude of the surviving peasants. 

Yet some things never change. Oswald's mother remains the powerful matriarch of the family, and his sister Clemence simmers in the background, dangerous and unmarried.

Before he can do anything, Oswald is confronted by the shocking death of a young woman, Alison Starvecrow. The ambitious village priest claims that Alison was killed by a band of demonic dog-headed men. Oswald is certain this is nonsense, but proving it—by finding the real murderer—is quite a different matter. Every step he takes seems to lead Oswald deeper into a dark maze of political intrigue, family secrets and violent strife.

And then the body of another girl is found.

=== February 17 ===

Title: Someone to Watch Over Me
Series: #5 in the Thóra Gudmundsdóttir legal series set in Iceland
ISBN:  9781250051479
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 336 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME, the fifth installment in the Thóra Gudmundsdóttir series, was named Crime Novel of the Year by the Sunday Times.

A young man with Down's Syndrome has been convicted of burning down his assisted living facility and killing five people, but a fellow inmate at his secure psychiatric unit has hired Thora to prove Jakob is innocent. If he didn't do it, who did? And how is the multiple murder connected to the death of a young woman, killed in what was supposed to be a hit-and-run?

Title: Dreaming Spies
Series: #14 in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes historical series set in England and Japan
ISBN: 9780345531797 
Publisher: Bantam
Hardcover, 352 pages

Synopsis: "After a lengthy case that had the couple traipsing all over India, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are on their way to California to deal with some family business that Russell has been neglecting for far too long. Along the way, they plan to break up the long voyage with a sojourn in southern Japan. The cruising steamer Thomas Carlyle is leaving Bombay, bound for Kobe. Though they’re not the vacationing types, Russell is looking forward to a change of focus—not to mention a chance to travel to a location Holmes has not visited before. The idea of the pair being on equal footing is enticing to a woman who often must race to catch up with her older, highly skilled husband.

Aboard the ship, intrigue stirs almost immediately. Holmes recognizes the famous clubman the Earl of Darley, whom he suspects of being an occasional blackmailer: not an unlikely career choice for a man richer in social connections than in pounds sterling. And then there’s the lithe, surprisingly fluent young Japanese woman who befriends Russell and quotes haiku. She agrees to tutor the couple in Japanese language and customs, but Russell can’t shake the feeling that Haruki Sato is not who she claims to be.

Once in Japan, Russell’s suspicions are confirmed in a most surprising way. From the glorious city of Tokyo to the cavernous library at Oxford, Russell and Holmes race to solve a mystery involving international extortion, espionage, and the shocking secrets that, if revealed, could spark revolution—and topple an empire

=== February 24 ===

Title: A Murder of Magpies
Series: #1 in the Samantha Clair series set in England
ISBN: 9781250056450
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 288 pages

Synopsis: "It’s just another day at the office for London book editor Samantha “Sam” Clair. Checking jacket copy for howlers, wondering how to break it to her star novelist that her latest effort is utterly unpublishable, lunch scheduled with gossipy author Kit Lowell, whose new book will dish the juicy dirt on a recent fashion industry scandal. Little does she know the trouble Kit’s book will cause—before it even goes to print. When police Inspector Field turns up at the venerable offices of Timmins & Ross, asking questions about a package addressed to Sam, she knows something is wrong. Now Sam's nine-to-five life is turned upside down as she finds herself propelled into a criminal investigation. Someone doesn't want Kit's manuscript published and unless Sam can put the pieces together in time, they'll do anything to stop it.

With this deliciously funny debut novel, acclaimed author Judith Flanders introduces readers to an enormously enjoyable, too-clever-for-her-own-good new amateur sleuth, as well Sam's Goth assistant, her effortlessly glamorous mother, and the handsome Inspector Field.

Good heavens, what an embarrassment of riches this month. There's no way I can narrow down the field to just one book that I'm anticipating the most!

What about you? Which titles are making your heart beat faster? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Predators by Frederick Ramsay

First Line: The lion blinked and shifted its weight to one side, hoping the dull pain that deprived him of sleep would abate. It didn't.

The U.S. State Department has asked Leo Painter, CEO of a large mining, energy, and real estate business, to travel to Botswana. Both Leo and his country would love to access Botswana's resources, but the CEO also has another dream: building a resort and casino on Botswana's Chobe River. It remains to be seen if Painter's business partners will allow him to do so.

This standalone by Frederick Ramsey shows the ruthlessness of the business and animal worlds with two storylines. One is of Sekoa, an old, ill lion who's been supplanted as the alpha male of his pride by a younger, stronger male. As Sekoa fights for survival, he's shadowed by a pack of hyenas that is waiting for him to make one mistake. The second storyline involves Leo (the Lion?) Painter, an old Chicago businessman with a weak heart, who has his own pack of human hyenas: his stepson, his stepson's wife, and various business associates. Ramsay shows that one world is every bit as deadly as the other just as he also shows us that Sekoa and Leo aren't as bad as we'd originally thought.

Botswana comes out as the real winner in Predators. It's portrayed as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, and rightfully proud of that fact. It's a jewel of great price and great natural wealth being circled by packs of hyenas (with names like Russia and America) just waiting to strike. I loved the setting and the wildlife depicted in this book. The people of Botswana are shown putting up with the idiocy of tourists because at this point in time tourism is the major source of their livelihood. But once these people are "off the clock," they have their own lives and their own customs.

For me, the best characters in the book were Sekoa the lion and Sanderson the game ranger. I was hoping for a different outcome for that noble old lion even though I knew it wasn't realistic. Sanderson has difficulties in her own life. Her son is dying of AIDs, just like her beloved husband did. She fears for her daughter, eyeing any young man her daughter favors with great suspicion. But what can she do, other than to slip condoms in her daughter's purse and to try not to nag? Sanderson is level-headed and thinks well on her feet, which is good because she is working a man's job and has to outmaneuver the dated way of thinking of her male counterparts on an almost hourly basis. In my opinion, Sanderson is worthy of her own series.

But of all the things I enjoyed about this book, it's Leo Painter and his crew that ultimately knocked the scales out of balance. Between acolytes and family, it was a surfeit of dishonesty, double-dealing, greed, stupidity, and bimbosity. I had to fight the urge to skip the sections dealing with Painter and Crew so that I could focus on Sekoa and Sanderson instead. Ramsay added occasional flashes of humor in Leo's sections that fell flat for me. Perhaps if I hadn't been so disgusted by these Chicago invaders, I would have appreciated the humor more. There's a lot to like about Predators. I just wish I'd been tough enough to deal with the human hyenas.

Predators by Frederick Ramsay
eISBN: 9781615951666
Poisoned Pen Press © 2009
eBook, 250 pages

Rating: C+
Source: Purchased from Amazon 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Scene of the Crime with Annette Mahon!

It's been a while since I've had an author interview, so I'm very happy to start off 2015 by sharing this interview with Annette Mahon, whom I've met and spoken with more than once at my favorite bookstore, The Poisoned Pen. Annette lives in Scottsdale where she writes the St. Rose Quilting Bee series featuring Maggie Browne and a group of friends who get together to quilt and solve the occasional murder. Annette also makes quilts, and you can get a real sense of that as you read her mysteries. 

Annette Mahon
Because I know how you like to do a bit of research on the authors you read, I've done some of my own so I can share a few links with you. Feel free to use them to learn more about Annette and to get in touch with her to say hello.

You know what I'm going to say now that I've shared all those links, don't you? It's time to get to the fun part: the interview!

What was the very first book you remember reading and loving? What makes that book so special?

I've always been a reader--I can't ever remember not reading. One of the first books I owned was a (child's version) of Grimms' Fairy Tales and I absolutely loved it. I can still remember the cover--shiny paper, with a forest pictured. When I first started writing romances, I used to explain that I'd always loved fairy tales and romance books are more or less adult fairy tales. After all, we women continue to read them and look for that happily ever after even after we're happily married ourselves. I still love fairy tales and have a complete Brothers Grimm (adult version) on my bookshelf. I still enjoy reading them. They captured my fancy as a child so there may be a hint of nostalgia there.

Outside of your writing and all associated commitments, what do you like to do in your free time?

 In my spare time, I read and I quilt. My love of quilting is the reason I try to include quilts in so many of my books. Even before I started the St. Rose Quilting Bee Mysteries, I had two romances set in a quilt store in Hawai`i (Above the Rainbow and Chase Your Dream), and another two romances with a "magic" quilt that helped each new owner find her one true love (Dolphin Dreams and Holiday Dreams).

I also knit and embroider and am currently knitting a baby blanket for a new grandchild. I love needlework of all kinds. Applique, especially Hawaiian quilting, is my favorite and I usually have a Hawaiian quilt top in the works that I can pick up whenever I have a spare moment. It's why I couldn't wait to take my amateur sleuth quilters to Hawai`i for a Hawaiian quilt seminar (St. Rose Goes Hawaiian). I wanted to share my love of that particular type of quilting. 

If I were to visit your hometown, where would you recommend that I go? (I like seeing and doing things that aren't in all the guide books.) 

Devastation Trail now
That's a tough one, as almost all the good spots are in the Big Island guidebooks. But a special place is in Volcanoes National Park. (That's not quite in my hometown, but it's a short drive.) It's called Devastation Trail but was given that name back in 1959 or 1960 when it really was a wooden trail in a field of lava desolation. Nature has taken it back now, and it's a young forest with ohi`a trees and ferns. It's very quiet and peaceful and you can hear the calls of the native birds. It's a special place and I think you get that feeling when you visit there. It may be even more special for me because I actually saw the original trail as a teenager. Seeing the difference now shows how remarkable and resilient nature can be.

Devastation Trail then

You have total control over casting a movie based on your life. Which actor would you cast as you?

Andie Macdowell
I'm not much of a movie person, and I'm terrible at names, so I don't know that I'm up on actors. Maybe that woman who plays the judge in the Cedar Cove series. She has the same dark curly hair that I have. I looked it up--her name is Andie McDowell. I'd love to have her play me. 

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

I have a lot, but my all time favorite is probably Miss Marple. I'm sure my fondness for her helped inspire my group of senior sleuths in the St. Rose Quilting Bee mysteries.

If you could have in your possession one signed first edition of any book in the world, which book would that be? Why that particular book?

The first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I chose that one not only because I love the series, but it made such an impact on the entire world. The Harry Potter books are responsible for getting so many children to read, to love reading, and not to be intimidated by a thick book. As a former children's librarian, that's something near and dear to my heart.

How did you celebrate when you first heard you were to be published? What did you do the first time you saw one of your books on a shelf in a bookstore?

When I got off the phone with that first editor, I remember bouncing all over the house, so excited I couldn't keep still.

Actually, I don't recall the first time I saw my books on a bookstore shelf, because my hardcover publishers (Thomas Bouregy/Avalon Books originally, and Five Star/Gale/Cengage now) sell mainly to the library market, and Montlake sells mainly online. The books only rarely make it to bookstore shelves. I do remember seeing my first book on a library shelf--it was at the Glendale Public Library, the Velma Teague Branch. I was so excited; I felt very special. It was a lifelong dream to write a book and see it in the library.

You've just received a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice. Which bookstore are you making a bee-line for?
The Poisoned Pen Bookstore
The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

An extremely reliable source tells you that a thinly disguised you is a character in a book that's currently high up on the New York Times Bestseller List. What kind of character do you think you are? 

I'm the person in the background trying to be a good mother, wife, and friend, doing what she can to help. Hmm, that sounds rather old-fashioned and a lot like Melanie in Gone with the Wind. :-/  Oh, and I probably have a book or some needlework in my hands. Of course, I wish I was Miss Marple, knitting quietly while solving the mysteries the police can't quite solve.

Available Now!

Thank you so much for spending this time with us, Annette. It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you a little better!

May your book sales do nothing but increase!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

An Ominous Death by Annette Mahon

First Line: Candy lay in the darkness, eyes open, ears alert.

Sometime member of the St. Rose Quilting Bee group Candy Breckner broke both her legs in a car wreck and is recuperating at the Palo Verde Care Center. When Maggie Browne and the other Bee members find out, they go for a visit and bring a gift-- a lap quilt they made especially for her. Candy is in an extremely agitated state, telling her friends that there is an "angel of death" working at the facility, but her worries are easily blamed on the side effects of medication. 

When Candy dies suddenly, Maggie and the others start having second thoughts-- especially when police seem to be very interested in Bee member Louise Lombard, a retired nurse who found Candy's body. With interest on the wrong person, it's up to the St. Rose Quilting Bee to piece and stitch all the clues together into a quilt of evidence strong enough to wrap up a killer.

If you like character-driven mysteries featuring women "of a certain age," I recommend Annette Mahon's St. Rose Quilting Bee series. The Bee members are a cross section of women from all walks of life and of all personalities. Maggie Browne gave her north Scottsdale ranch to one of her sons and his family, and now she's enjoying horseback riding, theater, her children and grandchildren, and doing volunteer work through her quilting group. Maggie tends to be the most level-headed and inquisitive of the group, which also contains a retired nurse, a woman who compares clues to the mysteries she's read, and the resident curmudgeon (among others). There may not be any physical descriptions of these women in this book, but that's really not necessary. Their voices and behavior distinguish each one quite easily.

Having a killer in a nursing home easing the elderly out of their lives of pain and into the hereafter is an excellent plot device and really kept me guessing, and Mahon's skill with the Scottsdale, Arizona, setting gives you a real taste of city living in the desert. 

You also get a taste for quilting (an art form I've always greatly admired) while reading An Ominous Death. Bee members even get several people-- women and men-- to take a class at the Palo Verde Care Center. I have to admit that my favorite part of the book was listening to all the women as they sat around the quilt frame, stitching together layers of fabric and batting and discussing each new scrap of information. It's like watching an entire group of Miss Marples, only these ladies don't pack knitting needles.

Annette Mahon has created a group of women that Miss Marple herself would be proud to know, and I think you'll enjoy them as much as I do.

An Ominous Death by Annette Mahon
ISBN: 9780373266098 
Worldwide © 2007
Mass Market Paperback, 255 pages

Cozy Mystery, #2 St. Rose Quilting Bee mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Paperback Swap