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Friday, May 22, 2015

Review - Toured to Death

Hy Conrad, author of Mr. Monk books and Monk TV writer has made a career out of light mystery, earning a Scribe Award and garnering three Edgar nominations. Along the way, he developed a horde of popular games and interactive films, hundreds of short stories and a dozen books of solvable mysteries, published in over a dozen different languages.  In the world of TV, he is best known for his eight seasons as a writer and co-executive producer for the ground-breaking series "Monk."  I was overjoyed to have him as a guest blogger (click here) discussing the difference between TV Monk and the book Monk.

But, today I am reviewing a new book series by Mr. Conrad.  It is the debut novel of Amy's Travel Mysteries.  When I stumbled across this new series, I as delighted and had to read it.  Library finds are like discovering treasure tucked away.  See what you think.

Author: Hy Conrad

Copyright: January 2015 (Kensington) 320 pgs

Series: 1st in Amy's Travel Mystery series

Sensuality: mild kissing and adult topics

Mystery Sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Amy Abel, Widow and owner of Amy's Travel Agency and
Coordinator of mystery-themed European road rally

Setting: Modern day, Europe and New York

Obtained Through: Library Find

The Amazing Race meets Clue, where you race from Monte Carlo to Rome following clues to a mystery, attempting to be the first to solve the crime.  Amy Abel is taking a huge chance on this concept for her travel agency, but it combines her love of mysteries and the one thing she cherished with her deceased husband - travel.  The man who wrote the entire mystery road rally, Otto Ingo, is killed in his home in NY and Amy finds out that the script is all based on a true murder that is still unsolved...and two people on the trip were part of the original murder five years ago.

Add in an attempt on a participant's life, rooms being ransacked, and another murder and Amy has her hands full. One of the travel companions is the only suspect for the murder in Rome, and Amy is convinced they have the wrong person. Plus a rogue who charms her and her pushy mother with a cast of fellow mystery buffs and its enough to give a girl a migraine. At the back of the book are several great travel tips.

Amy Abel is timid and learning to stand up for herself, so the events on the trip and back at home with her mother test her new-found resolve.  Fanny is like Marie Barone of "Everybody Loves Raymond,"  annoying and comical at times.  Although, Amy really needs to set some serious boundaries there.  Marcus Alvarez is the charming rogue who opts for a lie when the truth would do, and then doesn't understand why Amy doesn't trust him.  The Murder Mystery tour has twenty four guests, but only a handful are key to the story and it is easy to follow the characters.

The first two-fifths take place in Europe, highlighting charming and historical spots, the rest unfolds in New York with a side trip to New Jersey.  Descriptions add to the vacation theme without slowing down the story.  The plot is a cleaver concept and perfect for an exotic cozy. The pacing was steady and kept me turning pages. 

The climax is an opportunity for Amy to shine in the midst of danger.  I do have to comment that almost all the scenes are from Amy's view point, but approaching the climatic killer reveal (nicely done) Marcus gets a long section from his view point. Although I understand why that was done for the sake of showing some developments, it seemed to lessen Amy's role in the climax, which is critical.  The wrap-up leaves a perfect door open for further adventures and I am looking forward to them.

Leave it to Hy Conrad to pull off this quirky concept with panache! Characters to draw you in and an interesting story told with deceptive ease.  This is a definite beach read to keep you entertained during your own travels, or as an armchair tourist.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it, it had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

Here is a short snippet of Mr. Conrad discussing travel and the new series:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUsPm1LLFCA

The dynamic between Amy and her mother:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmBVZPND4_I

The inspiration for the new series:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFjx-GfAPyY


Writing Novels versus writing for television:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1CaZMh2NXk


The California Wine Club - Handcrafted, Quality Wines from "Mom & Pop" Wineries. No Bulk Wine.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Guest Post - Linda Reilly

Linda Reilly is the author of an exciting new Deep Fried cozy mystery series, Linda was first published in 1995 with her first short mystery, Out of Luck, that was accepted for publication by Woman’s World Magazine. Since then she’s had over forty short stories published, including a sprinkling of romances. In 2013 Five Star Publishing released her first full-length mystery, Some Enchanted Murder, featuring Paralegal/title searcher Apple Mariani.  I loved her debut of Deep Fried cozy mystery, Fillet of Murder (read review here.)  Let's welcome Linda to M&MM's blog!


Summer Job inspires Novel
When I began writing Fillet of Murder, which features a fish and chips eatery in the Berkshires, I wanted readers to like my people . . . maybe even find a few of them quirky. Isn’t that one of the things we love about cozy characters? Since I grew up in the region where the series takes place, I scrolled my mind backward (way, way backward) to my younger days, to some of the wonderful “characters” I was lucky enough to know.

I was seventeen when I first got a summer job at an old-style restaurant called The Willows (long gone, I’m afraid). The owner, Gladys, was a generous soul and one of the best cooks I’ve ever known. Throughout that entire summer I flipped burgers, made sub sandwiches, and washed a never-ending stream of dirty dishes and pans. I even scrubbed clam shells for the soon-to-be steamed clams, never realizing they were still alive until one of them snapped shut and sent my heart into overdrive!

That summer left me with so many treasured memories. I can still recall how appreciated Gladys made me feel after working long, hot hours in a kitchen cooled only by a table fan. She overpaid me and over-praised me—she was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known.

Those are the days I thought back to when I first began writing the Deep Fried series. I wanted Talia Marby, my main character, to have those same warm recollections of her first summer job. So I created Bea Lambert.

As characters go, Bea is one of my favorites. Picture a petite, sixtyish woman with springy black curls, leaf green eyes, and a darling British accent. Originally from the UK, her speech is populated with words like “luvvy” and “bloke” and “wanker.” Bea is the co-owner, with her hubby, of Lambert’s Fish & Chips—an eatery located in a cobblestoned shopping plaza designed to resemble an old English village.

Talia was a teenager when she got her first job at Lambert’s. Troubled by a rift between her mom and dad, she bonded with the childless Bea, and Lambert’s became her refuge. Even when she wasn’t working, Talia could often be found mulling over homework at one of the tables at the back of the restaurant. Bea couldn’t have loved Talia more if she’d been her own daughter.

Talia learned the fish and chips biz that summer, never dreaming she’d return there more than fifteen years later to help out Bea in a pinch. What she also never imagined was murder, right there in that charming plaza. When Bea is accused of murdering a fellow shopkeeper, Talia dives right in to rescue her friend from a certain stint in the pokey.

Looking back, I realize that Bea and Gladys didn’t have all that much in common. Not unless you counted their many kindnesses, their overwhelming generosity, and their love for humankind.

Were you ever lucky enough to have a Bea or a Gladys in your life? Do you have a story you’d like to share about your first summer job? 


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

THANK You Linda for sharing your memories that inspired this newest novel.  My summer job....housekeeping job at a hotel.  I was exhausted and ready for school to start.





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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Review - Fillet of Murder

I love fish 'n chips - it is a splurge for me.  I saw this new mystery series featured a mom-and-pop fried fish dinner and a New England setting, I had to give a try.  I am glad I did.  

Author: Linda Reilly

Copyright: May 2015 (Berkley) 296 pgs

Series: 1st in Deep Fried Mystery series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Talia Marby, works at Lambert’s Fish and Chips 

Setting: Modern day, Berkshires in Maryland

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Talia left a miserable job, and a broken relationship in Boston and has returned to her hometown in the Berkshires.  She picks up a job in Lambert's Fish & Chips to help out the owners since one is in the hospital.  Lambert's is just one business in a shopping plaza that resembles an old English village.  But Phil Turnbull, the owner of a lighting store is on the rampage to prevent a comic book store from opening in the plaza.  Phil turns up dead and Bea is suspected.  Talia vows to clear Bea's name and in the process finds out many unpleasant things about Phil.


Talia is kind-hearted and mending from a break-up and quitting a job. We see her come into her own in the course of the story.  I found her an easy character to like and identify with.  Bea, a sweet grand-mother type who runs Lambert's Fish and Chips.  There are a variety of shop owners: Suzi Sato runs the bath and body store, Jill Follansbee owns the tea shop, Jim Jepson, her former Geometry teacher has the pottery store, Cliff Colby and others.  Rachel is Talia's BFF and some comedy relief.  Ryan Collins, an old high school classmate now a software designer (not a cop!) and potential boyfriend.  I don't often think the romantic interest is a stand-out, but Ryan is a great character and I am looking forward to more of him.  I can't forget to mention the sweet little calico cat Bojangles that Talia entices into her home.

The Berkshires was a good setting for the story, made me want to visit. Am I the only person with a vacation wish list resulting from story locations?  The plot proceeded with the reader thinking the story and murder is about one thing, to be surprised that it is all about something completely different, even with the clues right there.  Excellent plot written well to give a great surprise.

   The pacing was perfect, my interest was maintained and engaged throughout and I zipped through it as a result.  The climax and killer reveal was unique and tense, had me on the edge-of-my-seat. The wrap-up was heartening and paves the way for more adventures. 

This is a cozy mystery done right!  Good characters, not too quirky but developed and enjoyable with a tantalizing mystery that delivers a great twist.  I want more.

Rating: Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend.





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Monday, May 11, 2015

Guest Post - Character Penny Lively

Today we have a guest post from Penny Lively, the main character of the new Cypress Cove mystery series written by Carlene O'Neil.  I reviewed the debut book in the series, One Foot in the Grape (click here).  This is the first Character guest post we have had, so I hope everyone enjoys Penny's visit.

Carlene O'Neil
Getting to Know Penny Lively
Hi, I’m Penny Lively, owner of Joyeux Winery. Joyeux is a smaller winery in comparison to several of our neighbors, but enjoys a great reputation. As it happens, I’ve also managed to gain a reputation for my knack for finding bodies. I don’t know if knack is the right word…Connor would call it a gift, but the statement would be said under his breath and likely dripping with sarcasm. Connor’s my winery manager. My manager and nothing more. Yup, nothing more. He’s the best manager on the central California coast and I’m lucky to have him in that capacity, which is why I’ve stifled any urges I might have for him in any other capacity…

Where was I? Right. So after a long career as an investigative photojournalist, I came home to the winery I’d inherited. I’d been worried small town life would be too slow. Instead, I’ve been back less than a year and so far I’ve managed to find more bodies than I did in an entire career investigating situations where one might reasonably expect to find bodies. The local police can’t decide what to do with me, but it’s not like I’m asking for this. Although, I have to admit, once I’m involved I’m not about to walk away. Either the police manage to get it wrong, or someone I care about is a suspect and asks for my help. The first time it happened, my neighbor, Antonia Martinelli, thought someone was sabotaging her winery. She didn’t want to go to the police because she thought one of her children might be involved. Simple, right? Nobody mentioned murder. They never really do.

Between running the winery and running just ahead of

whatever mess I’m no doubt in, I stay pretty busy. Connor does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to the winery, so I have free time on my hands. I spend most of it with my camera, a holdover from my last profession. My focus is on the landscape now, and this is a part of the country where it’s easy to find inspiration. The winery is beautiful, vineyards stretched across rolling hills in tones of bronze and umber, and just a short drive from Monterey Bay, Pebble Beach and the fabulous town of Cypress Cove.

That’s another thing; murder just shouldn’t happen somewhere so beautiful. The mean streets of Los Angeles? Sure. The underbelly of Chicago? Who’s surprised? Nobody. Here, when you find a body set against such beauty, it seems so much more shocking, vicious, and wrong. There’s a Latin saying, “It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend; one's present or future thirst; the excellence of the wine; or any other reason.” After what I’ve just been through I would include finding a body in your neighbor’s crusher. Just saying. 



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thank you Penny...and Carlene!  





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Friday, May 8, 2015

Review - One Foot in the Grape

I enjoy mysteries set in California wine country, so I was excited to see this new series.  There are a few others, but not many.  So there is room for another with this theme.  Check out Cypress Cove California.

Author: Carlene O'Neil

Copyright: May 2015 (Berkley) 295 pgs

Series: 1st in Cypress Cove Mystery series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Penny Lively, former photojournalist newly inherited Joyeux Vineyard

Setting: Modern day, Cypress Cove - California wine country

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Penny Lively lost her job as a photojournalist but is taking up the reins ofJoyeux Winery that her aunt left her.  By her side are her niece Hayley asAssistant Manager and Connor as winery manager.  But the owner of theneighboring winery, and a distant relative, Antonia Martinelli, asks for help with apparent sabotage of her wines.  Her winery is large and influential, but somebody is out to ruin her.  Penny agrees to help, but  she didn't realize what was involved when she finds the Martinelli Tasting Room Manager, Todd Ryan, in the grape crusher.  Penny feels protective since Hayley was the last person with Todd, and thus is a prime suspect.

Penny is in her mid thirties, a head strong person used to being on her own.  She is a likeable character.  Haley complements Penny well and grounds her.  Connor, the Winery manager is the potential romantic interest who harps about Penny's safety.  Antonia is the iron-fisted matriarch of a dysfunctional family that includes daughters Francesca and Chantal, plus Stephen the heir and his wife Veronica. Chief Lucas works the case without being antagonist with Penny.  This cozy has solid characters and less of the eccentric or comic elements, but not as gritty as an amateur sleuth or PI novel.

A good portion of the story takes place during the Autumn Festival, a two-days of wine, food, and judging local vineyards wine entries.  I particularly enjoyed the luscious descriptions of wine country during harvest and decorated in autumn colors.

The plot had several elements in play, so there is no simple solution which made this solid mystery. The pacing was steady throughout, resulting in what felt like a "fast" read.  The mystery resolution and killer confrontation was exciting with some good nail-biting suspense.  The wrap-up tied up the remaining issues.

This is a solid debut with a strong likeable main character, fantastic setting, and multifaceted mystery.  If you enjoy the Wine Lover's Mystery series, check this new series out.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it, it had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list.



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