Sunday, February 20, 2011

Scene of the Crime with Suzanne Arruda!

There can be a lot of enjoyment in following a mystery series from the very beginning-- watching the characters develop and grow, seeing how pacing and plots can change.

One series that I've been having a lot of fun following is the Jade del Cameron series written by Suzanne Arruda. Jade is a feisty young woman from New Mexico who became an ambulance driver during World War I, and when the war was over, she found her way to Africa and employment as a photojournalist.

Jade doesn't scare easily; she can shoot straight, take your picture, fix your transmission, and take you for a scenic flight over Kenya. She also knows how to have some first-rate adventures.

When I began reading the series, I referred to the books as my "Saturday matinee reading", but it didn't take long for me to change my tune. "Saturday matinee" implies a well-worn formula that doesn't change. Jade and her fellow characters do change, and the plots and period details improve with each book due to the amount of research that author Suzanne Arruda does.

The series feels like a labor of love, and I can't wait for each new book. Speaking of new books, the latest in the series-- The Crocodile's Last Embrace-- became available late last year, and my review of it is easily found. Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about the book:

Starred Review. Set in Kenya in 1921, Arruda's rip-roaring sixth Jade del Cameron mystery finds the motorcycle-riding photojournalist tangling with an old nemesis who's as slippery as a crocodile. Lilith Worthy, mother of Jade's lost WWI love, David Worthy, has escaped from her London prison and is out for revenge. The crooked widow hates Jade and her associates, Lord and Lady Avery Dunbury, who helped her late husband's illegitimate son claim half her husband's estate. Now David, who died in Jade's arms, appears to be sending Jade taunting messages from the grave (e.g., "Why did you let me die?"). Murders connected to a gold mine scheme provide extra intrigue, while Jade yearns for the return of her boyfriend, pilot Sam Featherstone. Jade, a female Indiana Jones with a touch of Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody, and Biscuit, her companion cheetah, make a vibrant duo.

Author Suzanne Arruda loves the outdoors, and she loves wildlife, facts that are very obvious in reading her books. She is also an artist, which I discovered on her Facebook page. Here are some of the ways you can learn more about one of my favorite authors:

Let's see how she fared with all the questions I tossed in her direction, shall we?

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

I actually have a really long memory so the FIRST was probably "Vicki the Chicky" (she was very brave and I was maybe 3 yrs. old). BUT... I remember being very excited about THE BLACK STALLION (Walter Farley). Not for the horse, mind you, but for the adventure. And, of course, I loved Tarzan as a kid.

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

Weather permitting, I love to hike. Love being in a forest if possible. I've quite a number of hobbies. Outdoors, I really enjoy my flower beds. Indoors, I'm now taking up watercolor painting.

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.)

I'll answer this about the town I grew up in, Greensburg, Indiana. You really have to go downtown and see the Large Tooth Aspen that grows on the courthouse tower. Seriously. One showed up in 1870 and there's been one ever since.

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

Val Kilmer  [Has she been talking to Leighton Gage?]

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

I was always intrigued when Professor Moriarty showed up in another Sherlock Holmes story. I find a good villain to match against the sleuth is very important. I think Moriarty influenced my character of Lilith Worthy.

Before your very first published mystery, what else had you written (short stories, articles, unpublished manuscripts)?

I wrote children's science and nature articles for magazines, some almanac articles, and three biographies for the children's school library market. I have a file cabinet of unpublished stuff.

I loved the Girl Guides in The Crocodile's Last Embrace. What was your inspiration to include them?

I wanted Jade to have a chance to show off some of her outdoorsy skills and needed a good reason. Then, in a copy (microfilm) of the old Nairobi newspapers, I saw that the Girl Guides had just formed a troop at that time. Sounded like something Beverly and Jade should get involved in.

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

When I first learned I had a book contract, it was also near my birthday so I combined the two and took my husband and twin sons out to a very fancy French restaurant that had (until recently) been tucked away in one of the little mining towns around here.

Seeing my books on a bookstore shelf for the first time was incredible. I think I just stared for a while.

I don't know if you've seen it, but I love Parnell Hall's video about book signings. What is the most unusual experience you've had at a book signing or author event?

I signed books at The Smithsonian's Museum of African Art while my right hand (and I'm right handed) was in a cast. Those are probably very collectible signatures, too.

The way some people talk, the only way to read now or in the future is with some sort of electronic device, like my husband's Nook. What is your opinion of eBooks, and how will they affect you as a published author?

I am very concerned about the future of books. On one hand, I know e-books open up a good service to my readers who always wanted large print books (not available) because the electronic readers can allow one to alter the text size. And I'm glad that kids are reading a lot more, possibly because they can do so on a cool gadget. But I know of a lot of book stores that are folding because of lower book sales. Yet some people actually go into the store to browse and then buy the e-version. You can't expect a store to stay in business just so a person can see what's available. And without independent book stores, a lot of new writers don't stand a chance of getting noticed.

Thank you so very much, Suzanne, for spending some time with us. Speaking as a woman who has a bit of Jade del Cameron in her soul, I hope your marvelous series continues for many, many books to come!

Who's next up on Scene of the Crime? Stop by next Monday to discover for yourself!


  1. I totally agree about the importance of indie bookstores.

    I have been meaning to pick up this series because I love the setting and time period. How cool that a newspaper story about Girl Guides could help inform one the books.

  2. Loved this: "Jade, a female Indiana Jones with a touch of Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody" - sounds like a great series.

    As a very committed reader, I've noticed one habit I have, now that I'm reading a lot more ebooks. When I love a book I've read in e-format, I will actually go and buy the print version. So hopefully there are a lot of readers out there who are like me!

  3. Thank you, ladies. I loved writing the girl guides, and I've actually found a lot of plot insprirations from the old Nairobi newspapers. Hope you enjoy

    Suzanne Arruda

  4. Beth-- It's amazing how many things can leap out at you from looking at old newspapers on microfilm.

    Belle-- I hope so, too!


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!