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Monday, May 2, 2016

Guest Post - Elaine Viets

Please welcome Elaine Viets to our little slice of the web today.  She is the author of 29 mysteries in three series, both hard-boiled and cozy: the Dead-End Job mysteries, the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mysteries, and the Francesca Vierling mysteries. She has won the Anthony, Agatha and Lefty Awards. 
The Art of Living

I don't enjoying looking at rich people's art and old furniture, so I'm not a fan of most house museum tours. There's only one exception:

Fort Lauderdale's Bonnet House Museum & Gardens.

I can't wait for you to read The Art of Murder, my May Dead-End Job mystery. The Art of Murder opens at Bonnet House, where I worked as a volunteer greeter.

Bonnet House was the colorful home of artists Evelyn and Frederic Clay Bartlett. Evelyn took up collecting miniature orchids at age 101, and lived to be 109. Their house was filled with light, life and color.

Bonnet House was Frederic's idea of a Caribbean plantation house. It's built around a courtyard sheltered by feathery palms and bright with flowers. The house has whimsical touches: gilded baroque columns swirl around the drawing room doors, balconies are frosted with New Orleans wrought iron, and Evelyn's collection of brightly painted wooden animals, including giraffes and ostriches, are everywhere.

Evelyn loved animals, and Bonnet House still has swans and a troupe of adorable monkeys living on the grounds. The monkeys, the last of Evelyn's pets, escaped from a bar.

Frederic built Evelyn the charming Bamboo Bar and Shell Museum as a birthday present. Most men won't even fetch their wives a drink, but Evelyn had a custom-built bar. Evelyn drank exotic Rangpur lime cocktails, made from maple syrup, rum, and Rangpur limes she grew in the gardens.

Vibrant Bonnet House seemed the perfect place to start Helen's fifteenth adventure. Helen and Margery are touring the mansion-turned-museum when they see Annabel Lee Griffin, a young, talented artist, at a museum painting class. Later, they also see Annabel's deadly end. Helen is hired to investigate her death. Was Annabel killed by her jealous husband? Her best friend? A lover from her bohemian past? Helen has her own brush with death as she searches for this artful killer.

Next time you're in Fort Lauderdale, visit the Bonnet House museum at bonnethouse.org. It's even prettier than these Website photos. See how Frederic and Evelyn mastered the art of living.
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THANK You Ms. Viets for joining us today.  Reminder, you can follow her at www.elaineviets.com, ElaineVietsMysteryWriter on Facebook and @evmysterywriter.  

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Guest Post: Dawn Eastman

 Please welcome Dawn Eastman, bestselling author of the Family Fortune cozy mystery series.  I am tickled to have her visit.  My review of her recent book, An Unhappy Medium, will be following shortly.  Hard to believe that I had not gotten to this series until now.


Writers are Thieves

Writers are thieves. We steal a facial feature here, a personality quirk there, and maybe an insecurity or two just to liven things up. By the time we are finished with the Dr. Frankenstein method of creating a character, the original source is obliterated. Clytemnestra (Clyde) Fortune, the protagonist in my Family Fortune series, is an ex-police officer and reluctant psychic. I am an ex-physician and would not be reluctant if I had any psychic ability. But, every character has a piece of their author somewhere inside.

In An Unhappy Medium, book four in the series, there are a few things we do share. The story opens with Clyde running to train for a charity fun run. That’s not the part we share – I have never and will never train for a charity run, fun or not. The part we share is that she hates it. Over the years I have tried to be a runner. I have close friends who are running fanatics. They train for marathons and iron man events - for fun! Walking and yoga are more my speed.

Clyde spends a lot of time with a bossy Shih Tzu named Tuffy. She and Tuffy have a difficult relationship. She doesn't think he likes her very much and resents feeling manipulated by him. I spend a lot of time with a bossy Shih Tzu-Bichon mix. And while I am sure he likes me, I suspect it's only because I'm the keeper of the fridge and pantry - he's smart enough to know where the food comes from. Any moment when Clyde feels that she is an unwilling staff member to a megalomaniacal tiny dog, that's my own life leaking through.

Finally, one of Clyde's strongest psychic talents is her ability to find things. She puts herself into a trance-like state and concentrates on the lost item. She describes a tug or push toward the location. It's like a psychic game of hot and cold. I, on the other hand, boast a talent for knowing where everything in my house is located. Several family members begin their search for items by saying "where's the ____?" As if this were the magic finding phrase. While I often despair of these people ever learning to keep track of their stuff, I admit that I have trained them to rely on me just like the dog relies on me to feed him. I really can find things.

I hope you will find time to visit Clyde and the rest of the Family Fortune crew in their new adventure. This one includes zombies, pirates, and missing diamonds. Clyde's sister, Grace, complicates matters when she returns to town with a dangerous secret plan. The gang must work together to solve a murder, find the lost treasure, and protect Grace from her past. 


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 THANK You Ms. Eastman.  I don't have the dog situation, but I often feel like I am only a tall can opener for my cat.  :-)

 
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Monday, April 18, 2016

Guest Post - Duffy Brown

Welcome the main character of the Cycle Path Mysteries to our little slice of the internet.  She will be discussing the dilemna of hiding a body she was faced with in the recently published book Braking for Bodies (review-click here).

Thoughts on Hiding a Body from Tourists

Duffy Brown


Evie Bloomfield here and it’s been a great summer on Mackinac Island...if you don’t mind a dead body or two. None of us especially my BFF Fiona liked this particular dead person so that’s not the problem. What is a big issue is what to do with the body so that it doesn’t scare off the tourists. We can’t just leave it there in front of the Grand Hotel, that will scare the bajeebers out of the guests and they’ll leave!

If there’s one thing all of here on the island do not want to happen is that! Our little chunk of land that’s a time warp back to the 1800s really relies on the tourists who we affectionately...or maybe not so much... call fudgies.

So our problem is where can Fiona and I get rid of that pesky old body so the tourists don’t know there’s a murderer afoot? I have a few suggestions and you can tell me which one appeals to you. Keep in mind all of these suggestions require strapping the body to a bike or renting a horse and buggy as Mackinac is without cars!

My first suggestion is to hide the body in Arch Rock. There’re enough bushes there to conceal the corpse and if anyone goes snooping they’ll have to snoop really hard.

Or I could shove the body back in Skull Cave. That place sounds a lot scarier then it is and the cave is actually too small for much stuffing. And there’s the likelihood that the fudgies will think it’s an island attraction, they think everything around here’s an attraction.

Then there’s Fort Mackinac. I saw a pit up at the fort where they put the bad soldier guys back in the day when such things were done. Maybe I should dump the body in there...till it started to stink and I don’t think that will take long.

Saint Ann’s Cemetery is a good choice for body dumping. Another body just fits right in. What’s one dead guy more or less?

Then again, Grand Hotel might work as a place to stash a body. I can just prop it up in one of those rocking chairs on that really looooong front porch they have. I can put a drink in his hand and he’ll look like a guy fallen asleep.

Or maybe I should just push the body off the East Bluff and into Lake Huron. I can weight it down with some rocks. Glug, glug, glug.

Or maybe I can push the body off Shepler’s dock or off the ferry on the ride back to the mainland?

Where should I get rid of the body? Mackinac Island is a great place for more than eating fudge. Some people have a drop-dead good time here and wait till you see where I actually do hide the body. You’ll loooove it!

Hugs, Duffy Brown

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THANK You Ms. Brown for that thought provoking topic!  Where indeed to hide a body.


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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Review - Braking for Bodies

This is the second installment in the Cycle Path Mystery Series.  I didn't read the first book, so I am jumping in with this one.  I can say I had to trouble picking up the story-line without reading the first.  Check out the rest of my thoughts below.

Author: Duffy Brown

Copyright: April 2016 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 2nd in Cycle Path Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Evie Bloomfield, 

Setting: Modern day, Mackinac Island Michigan- summer resort town

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Mackinac Island is a summer destination and with the Lilac Festival gearing up it is the height of tourist season.  Evie's best friend Fiona is very upset that her old boss -the editor of LA gossip newspaper Inside Scoop, Peephole Perry (Peepster), arrives on the island with his girlfriend Zo.  Peepster is in his toned down persona... wearing turquoise pants, 3 gold chains, and a gold Rolex. On the very next ferry, Peepster's wife Madonna arrives and within hours he is dead. Evie runs into the body with her bicycle. 

Looks like he was shoved over a patio railing and then savagely clobbered with a bottle of olive oil.  Which incriminates Fiona who had met Perry at the ferry with that very bottle of olive oil. As hotel guests watch, Evie convinces Chief Nate Sutter to preserve the vital summer tourist season by going along with the story that it is a big Murder Mystery Weekend the hotel is sponsoring.  Soon the guests are divided into teams to gather clues and win a prize.  Hilarity ensues. 

Idle Summers is the singing entertainment and is involved with Peep and Fiona somehow from their days in LA together.  Turns out Peepster liked to blackmail folks, and his phone carries all his dirt - but it's missing.  Fiona is hiding from Chief of Police Nate Summers while Evie tries to clear her name.  In the meantime, Rudy and Irma's wedding day is approaching - but everything is failing apart and needs saving.  Evie's Mother is back in town and seeing Angelo, the retired Italian mobster.  Angelo's son Luka is also in town and quickly starts romancing the police lady Molly. To top it off, Evie's prior nightmare boss from Chicago, Abigail, shows up for the wedding heart broken and decides a fling with Chief Sutter will make her feel better.

Evie (aka "Chicago") and her reputed black cloud hanging over her, is a klutz and can't lie worth beans.  Fiona grew up on the island, but her time in LA is haunting her with Peepster's arrival.  We may never know what she did, since she is adamantly keeping quiet on what Peepster has on her. But, Evie is a devoted friend throughout.  Chief of police Nate Sutter is the prerequisite cop-romantic interest, hard nosed and no-nonsense. The saving grace for his character is the reveal of his wedding planning abilities.  Mother Anna Louise Bloomfield aka Carmen is a great character, I would go so far as to say she is the breakout character.  Rudy and Irma are the subplot with their falling apart wedding adding extra tension to the story.

Mackinac Island, with its steep streets and no motorized transport, bad cell phone and WiFi service, where residents bet on anything:  which guy has the hottest butt on the island, when will Evie and Sutter get it on - is idyllic and makes a perfect place for the funny antics.  The Grand hotel and the Lilac Festival add to the local color and the island's character.

The basic plot of Peepster's murder is brilliantly augmented with the Mystery Weekend cover-up to ratchet up the humor factor. There is more-than-usual suspension of disbelief to enjoy the story, though.  There is so much going on in this story that the pacing is faster than many cozies and I found myself breezing through the pages.

The killer reveal was satisfying, if a bit too quickly over.  The brief wrap-up is tantalizing and leaves the reader wanting more of the zany Evie and island.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and Ms Duffy Brown's distinctive writing style.  This is a fun, quirky, humorous, and fanciful mystery that hit my funny bone but also gave me a twist and kept the killer under wraps.  Excellent job.

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

Enjoy this short video about the actual Mackinac Island and the real Grand Hotel.









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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Review - A Curious Beginning

New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, Deanna Raybourn, has a new series.  I can't wait to share it with you.

Author: Deanna Raybourn

Copyright: Sept 2015 (NAL) 352 pgs

Series: 1st in Veronica Speedwell Mystery series

Sensuality: Adult topics discussed, occasional swear word

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Veronica Speedwell, an amatuer entomologist raised by aunts - now alone in the world

Setting: 1887 London

Obtained Through: Library 

After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth. 

Veronica is larger-than-life and there aren't many female characters you can say that about.  Incredibly ahead of her time, stuborn, brainy with a sharp tongue and wit.  Undoubtedly, she won't be everyone's cup-of-tea.  Stoker (Mr. Ravelstoke Templeton-Vane) is cranky and reclusive who must face Veronica thrown into his life.  He has scars on his face from a disastrous expedition in the Amazon. He now makes a living as a taxidermist.  The chemistry between them culminates in stellar dialog as they bicker.  There are some side characters from the traveling circus they hide in for a few weeks and then friends of Stokers in London society. Mornaday starts in the Circus but ends up with a larger role as the story develops.  The little street urchin Badger is the best of the minor characters.

The Circus and even the London house are well utilized.  The plot is running from an unknown danger to Veronica, which her significance and the reason why she is in danger is revealed by the end.  The pacing is bolstered when they aren't in peril with the slowly developing relationship between them.  

The climax was quite suspenseful, even harrowing.  The wrapup left the door open for more adventures with Veronica and Stoker.

I could easily rave about this novel since I was thoroughly entertained.  I realize Veronica isn't strictly a character conforming to the norms of women's role in that era, and she may even be a little over-the-top.  But I found myself chuckling through the book.  Give her a try.


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



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