Sunday, December 3, 2023

Grounds for Murder - A Guest Post, Review, & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Gwen Rothberg to Cozy Up With Kathy today. You can find Gwen on the pages of the Coffee & Cream Cafe Mystery series. GROUNDS FOR MURDER is the second book in the series and was released last month.

A Day in My Life
By Gwen Rothberg

Until recently, my days were spent styling hair and engaging in gossip at the only salon in Watchogue, New York. I dressed the part, with long blonde hair waving around my shoulders and a fringe of bangs framing my big blue eyes, conforming to Watchogue’s expectations. But it’s all a lie. Beneath my demure exterior lies the truth—I haven’t changed much since high school when I’d varied my hair color and style just about every other week, ranging anywhere from long pink curls to a short blue pixie cut, and my wardrobe choices mostly consisted of miniskirts and spandex that hugged my Amazonian stature. To be honest, I was content but a little bored.

Then, my best friend from school, Danika Delaney, returned home. Of course, before I even ran into her, the rumors were flying. Danika had fled Long Island amid gossip about her catching her boyfriend, Luca, cheating on her at prom with Heather Teague, whom he later married. Upon her return, rumor had it, Heather caught Luca and Danika together in Jimmie’s Ice Cream Shop. My first thought was, “you go girl.” But then Heather turned up dead in Jimmie’s basement, and the gossip turned ugly. In my heart, I knew Danika would never have killed anyone. So, then I spent my days trying to help her prove her innocence—and maybe giving her a not so gently nudge toward the steamy detective handling the case.

I thought solving murders would be a one-time experience. I was wrong. When Danika asked if I’d take a few days off to help her ready the newly converted Coffee & Cream Café for its grand reopening, I was all for it. Then she said she was going to have an author event and book signing. Okay, sounds easy enough. Except it’s not. The evening starts with the author’s assistant insisting we rearrange all of the furniture we just finished arranging, moves onto another author showing up and accusing him of plagiarism, a super-stalker fan, and somehow ends in murder. So much for my life being boring.
The Second Coffee & Cream Cafe Mystery

After a few bumps in the road Danika Delaney is ready for the grand opening of her Coffee & Cream Cafe, formerly her Uncle Jimmie's ice cream shop. With an updated look, Dani decided to branch out and have best selling author, Fletcher Stone, autograph books at the opening event. Unfortunately, the mystery author brings nothing but drama. With an over exacting assistant, stalkery superfan, and a writer claiming Fletcher plagiarized his novel, the opening wasn't exactly what Dani was hoping for. Deciding to apologize for the fracas of the previous night, Dani goes to his inn only to find the author dead. With missing suspects and lots of questions Dani finds herself involved in murder once more. 
There are lots of thrills and chills in the second Coffee & Cream Cafe Mystery-enough to make Dani decide not to investigate. That is, until she's pushed too far and becomes even more determined to get to the bottom of things. I love the simmering heat between Dani and Jake and hope she forgets about starting over with Luca and concentrates on the dishy detective. I absolutely love the addition of Eli to the series. What a great fun guy and an amazing new friend.
The mystery was complex, the danger higher than usual, but the laughs were still there in spades making a fun page turning read. Nasty characters make a great juxtaposition to our good friends and family and there is more than one surprise to be found.
With a devious mystery, wonderful friendships, and a good many laughs GROUNDS FOR MURDER is an absolute delight.

 Grounds for Murder (Coffee & Cream Cafe Mysteries) by Lena Gregory

About Grounds for Murder 

Grounds for Murder (Coffee & Cream Cafe Mysteries)
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series
Setting - Watchogue, Long Island, New York
Gemma Halliday Publishing (November 21, 2023)
Number of Pages: 226

From author Lena Gregory comes a tasty new mystery with a killer twist...

Danika Delaney is thrilled to have taken over her uncle Jimmie's old fashioned malt shop on eastern Long Island and is working hard to make it her own. In an effort to increase business, Danika invites a mystery writer to the Coffee & Cream Café for a discussion and book signing. Things seem to be going well, until a guest shows up and confronts the author, accusing him of plagiarizing his work. Embarrassed by the incident, Danika goes to the inn where the writer is staying the following morning, hoping to apologize and offer him another chance to return. What she finds instead is his dead body—beside a cup of poisoned coffee! Now it's up to Danika to find out who wanted to silence the author... before the killer decides to write Danika a not-so-happy ending!

About Lena Gregory

Lena grew up in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island, but she recently traded in cold, damp, gray winters for the warmth and sunshine of central Florida, where she now lives with her husband, three kids, son-in-law, and four dogs. Her hobbies include spending time with family, reading, and walking. Her love for writing developed when her youngest son was born and didn’t sleep through the night. She works full time as a writer and a freelance editor and is a member of Sisters in Crime.

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Friday, December 1, 2023

Mrs. Claus and the Trouble with Turkeys - A Review


The Fourth Mrs. Claus Mystery 
While Christmas is the holiday around which Santaland revolves, April Claus is slowly trying to introduce other holidays. What better than Thanksgiving, a day to be grateful, as well as indulge in turkey, stuffing, and a variety of desserts. Elves adore a celebration and have taken the idea and run with it. Instead of one day of thanks, a whole week of festivities is planned. April has even ordered a live turkey, that the family will feast on. But April has more to worry about than learning to march while drumming. Gobbles has been stolen, a Claus cousin has been murdered, and April is a suspect! Will she be able to find the missing turkey and solve a murder before Thanksgiving Day?
Once again Liz Ireland has given us a rollicking good time in the frozen North. A bird-napping, a murder, and a wild elf on the loose make Santaland's first Thanksgiving memorable. I love how April is sharing the customs from down South by bringing other holidays to Santaland. I especially love how the elves embrace these celebrations. A parade replete with marching band, twirlers, along with a special surprise, Thanksgiving songs (well, song), and plenty of food to feast on make a celebration more grand than those in the USA! Of course, no holiday with April runs smoothly. I'm still agog at her culinary contribution to Amory's table...that makes her a murder suspect. I am delighted by the police float and enjoy the misfit reindeer getting a chance to shine. Multiple mysteries, the missing Gobbles, the murdered cousin, and the weird best friend behavior, kept me enthralled.

Funny and heartfelt MRS. CLAUS AND THE TROUBLE WITH TURKEYS is an entertaining holiday read, even if it makes you reconsider eating turkey on Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Grounds for Murder by Lena Gregory. This book is the second in the Coffee & Cream Cafe Mystery series and was released last week.

After a few bumps in the road Danika Delaney is ready for the grand opening of her Coffee & Cream Cafe, formerly her Uncle Jimmie's ice cream shop. With an updated look, Dani decided to branch out and have best selling author, Fletcher Stone, autograph books at the opening event. Unfortunately, the mystery author brings nothing but drama. With an over exacting assistant, stalkery superfan, and a writer claiming Fletcher plagiarized his novel, the opening wasn't exactly what Dani was hoping for. Deciding to apologize for the fracas of the previous night, Dani goes to his inn only to find the author dead. With missing suspects and lots of questions Dani finds herself involved in murder once more.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Murder on Tour - A Guest Post & Giveaway

I'm pleased to let V. M. Burns take over Cozy Up With Kathy today. V. M. writes the Mystery Bookshop Mystery series. Murder on Tour is the ninth book in the series and was released today!

Write What You Know
V. M. Burns

I must have heard that old adage, “Write what you know” hundreds of times. Fortunately, or unfortunately, what I wanted to write were murder mysteries. I’m not a member of law enforcement. Nor am I a criminal. Having never murdered anything more than a spider, I felt ill-equipped. Eventually, it dawned on me. Most crime writers have never committed murder either. Certainly, Agatha Christie never murdered anyone. Not being a member of either the law enforcement or the criminal communities would be serious deficits indeed, if I wanted to write nonfiction. However, I wanted to write fiction. So, I took that adage to write what I knew and used it as a frame or scaffolding around which I could build my fictional mysteries.

The first step was an inventory. I evaluated what I needed and what I knew. The first thing every piece of fiction needs is a setting. I grew up in Northwestern Indiana and was currently living in Southwestern Michigan. I was very familiar with the towns of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Michigan. The towns are sister cities located on the shores of Lake Michigan. Benton Harbor is a town in economic decline. There’s high unemployment, low incomes, and many boarded-up and abandoned homes. St. Joseph shared the same Lake Michigan shoreline and was just across the bridge. However, that’s where the similarities ended. St. Joseph was an idyllic tourist town with cobblestoned streets and a thriving retail business. That dichotomy provided interest. Benton Harbor became my setting, although I changed the name to North Harbor in the books, anyone familiar with the area will recognize it.

Next, I needed a protagonist. This is where I did a bit of introspection. Samantha Washington and her late husband, Leon, both dreamed of quitting their jobs and opening a bookshop that specialized in mysteries. At the start of the series, Leon is dead and Samantha realizes that life is too short, not to follow your dreams. So, she quits her job as a high school English teacher takes a leap of faith, and opens her mystery bookshop. Samantha also dreamed of one day writing British historical cozy mysteries. These were Sam’s dreams because they are also my dreams. One day, I’d love to open a mystery bookshop. As for writing British historical cozy mysteries, I get to live out that dream through my characters. Each book in my Mystery Bookshop Mystery series features two murders. There is the murder Sam is solving in her real life. Readers also get to read the British cozy mystery she’s writing.

Once I had my location and my protagonist, I was able to build a murder mystery around those elements. Murder on Tour is the 9th book in the Mystery Bookshop Mystery series. Samantha Washington’s first book, Murder at Wickfield Lodge, has finally been published and she is out on her first book tour. While attending the North Harbor Book Festival, she gets involved in solving a murder. It’s up to Sam to figure out Whodunit before there’s another fatality.


 Murder on Tour (Mystery Bookshop) by V.M. Burns

About Murder on Tour

Murder on Tour (Mystery Bookshop)
Cozy Mystery 9th in Series
Setting - Michigan
Kensington Cozies (November 28, 2023)
Paperback: ‎ 256 pages

Bookstore owner and Michigander Samantha Washington is thrilled to see her debut historical mystery finally on the shelves, but a killer seems determined to steal away the spotlight . . .

While Sam wraps up her first whirlwind book tour, Nana Jo has kept Market Street Mysteries running smoothly. The last stop is a prestigious book festival in Sam’s hometown of North Harbor, Michigan. But not everyone thinks the guest of honor, bestselling author Judith Hunter, deserves stellar reviews. Sam witnesses nasty arguments between Judith and two different authors—who accuse her of plagiarism and sabotage . . .

When a publicist is poisoned during a cocktail reception, Sam wonders if the killer missed the intended target. It’s a twist that echoes the plot of Sam’s mystery, Murder at Wickfield Lodge. But fact can be stranger—and deadlier—than fiction. How much collateral damage is the killer willing to risk? With feisty Nana Jo and the girls from Shady Acres Retirement Village lending a hand, Sam tries to solve the case before the festival delivers another fatality . . .

About V.M. Burns

Valerie (V. M.) Burns is an Agatha, Anthony, Edgar, and Next Generation Award Finalist. She is the author of the Mystery Bookshop, Dog Club, RJ Franklin, and Baker Street Mystery series. Valerie is a member of Crime Writers of Color, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Dog Writers of America, and Thriller Writers International. Valerie has a Bachelor’s Degree from Northwestern University, a Master’s Degree in Business from the University of Notre Dame, and a Master of Fine Arts from Seton Hill University. In addition to writing, Valerie works as a manager at a call center, and is also a mentor in the Writing Popular Fiction MFA Program at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA. Born and raised in northwest Indiana, Valerie now lives in Northern Georgia with her two poodles.

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Monday, November 27, 2023

Crime and Parchment - An Interview, Excerpt, & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Daphne Silver to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Daphne writes the Rare Books Cozy Mystery series. CRIME AND PARCHMENT is the first book in the series and was released last week.

Kathy: CRIME AND PARCHMENT is the first book in the Rare Books Cozy Mystery series. I love books, but am intrigued and in awe of rare books. I'm lucky to have seen a Gutenberg Bible. Have you seen any rare books? What is one rare book you'd love to see?

DS: Thank you for asking. I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing a Gutenberg Bible at the Library of Congress. The one that stood out the most to me was the Book of Kells at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Seeing that book inspired writing CRIME AND PARCHMENT! There are many I’d love to see. The strangest rare book I’d like to see is called the Voynich Manuscript. It’s centuries old, but no one has ever decoded its curious, almost alien-like language or bizarre imagery. It’s housed at Yale University.

Kathy: Juniper Blume has a rescue dog named Clover. While I only have rescue cats now, I once had rescue dogs. Do you have any rescued animals? 

DS: While I unfortunately don’t have any rescued animals currently, I have grown up with dogs. My husband and I adopted Echo not long after we got married. You could walk Echo for hours without wearing him out! I hope our schedules will one day allow us to bring home a new friend again. Unfortunately, we’re both allergic to cats, although we love them. My son would really love to have a cat, so I may need to research allergy medicine options.

Kathy: Is Clover based on a real dog, or is Clover purely fictional?

DS: Clover is based upon our past rescue dog Echo, who was also a 20lb white cutie. While Echo unfortunately had a lot of fear around people and dogs, he was also incredibly smart and had endless energy. Writing about Clover helps keep Echo’s memory alive for me.

Kathy: Azalea makes East European Jewish treats, like sweet kugels and tzimmes cake. Do you have a favorite Jewish treat?

DS: So many! I love lokshen kugel, babka, hamantaschen, lekach (honey cake), rugelach… Okay, now I’m hungry!

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

DS: It wasn’t until I started working in museums that I became interested in cozy mysteries. Here was a genre where a curator or antique store owner could solve crimes, often because of the unique skill set they brought. How amazing is that? In history museums, we frequently have unsolved mysteries surrounding objects in the collection or people who lived at the site, and in cozy mysteries, there’s a chance to finally solve these stories.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

DS: Yes, I’ve published three local history books under my legal name, Lauren Silberman. These include: Wild Women of Maryland: Grit and Gumption in the Free State (History Press, 2015), Wicked Baltimore: Charm City Sin and Scandal (History Press, 2011), and The Jewish Community of Baltimore (Arcadia Publishing, 2008).

Kathy: Tell us about your series. 

DS: Rare books librarian Juniper Blume finds books and bodies where they don’t belong. In the first book CRIME AND PARCHMENT, she learns about an ancient Celtic manuscript supposedly in a Maryland cemetery, but when she gets there, she doesn’t find the book but a body instead.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

DS: I love exploring with Juniper. She’s driven by her curiosity, which is why she became a librarian. She’s a walking treasure trove of knowledge about sometimes seemingly useless things, like facts surrounding the founding of Maryland as a British colony. Juniper sometimes leaps before she looks, but she has a big heart and a deep desire to make things better. She also gets to drive a 1965 Karmann-Ghia, hang out with her rescue dog Clover, sport awesome vintage clothes, and eat her sister’s food, since you wouldn’t want her anywhere near an oven herself.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

DS: I’ve long been interested in rare books, having worked mostly in museums and being married to a librarian. However, it was that trip to Ireland and seeing the Book of Kells that truly stirred my imagination.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work? 

DS: I loved writing this story, and as soon as the first draft was finished, I knew I wanted to share it with others, hoping they’d enjoy the journey as much as I had.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

DS: Because I’m involved with the mystery author community, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to get to do dinner with some awesome mystery writers, so I’ll focus on those authors who have passed away:
● Edgar Allan Poe
● Agatha Christie
● Mary Shelley
● Mark Twain
Can you imagine the conversation that they would have? I don’t even need to be at the dinner party. I’d simply want to watch them talk together. 


Kathy: What are you currently reading? 

DS: I’m finally catching up on Leslie Budewitz’s Spice Shop mystery series. My husband and I went to Seattle during our honeymoon, so reading her series takes me back to a special time in our lives.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

DS: In addition to writing, I also love to paint. I was actually a painting major in college. I used to paint in oil and acrylic, but these days I prefer watercolor. I really want to learn how to make my own watercolor paints.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

DS: Oat milk, eggs, bananas, and leftovers - I don’t cook as much as I should, but I tend to have the materials to make something creative when needed.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

DS: Yes! I have a 5 book contract with Level Best Books, so we’ll both get to spend more time with Juniper and Rose Mallow, Maryland. I hope you enjoy reading about her world as much as I’m enjoying writing it.

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

DS: There is a magical state called “flow” where the words sometimes seem to write themselves. Getting into that state is frequently elusive, but when you catch it, you just get going on the ride and see where the story takes you. Sometimes you have to force the words, but even then, it can produce truly incredible results, and you surprise yourself with where the story has gone. The only thing that tops this though is sharing my work with others. I hope my stories produce delight and joy in readers. 


 Crime and Parchment: A Rare Books Cozy Mystery by Daphne Silver

About Crime and Parchment

Crime and Parchment: A Rare Books Cozy Mystery
Cozy Mystery 1st in Series
Setting - Fictional town of Rose Mallow, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay
Level Best Books (November 21, 2023)
Print length: ‎ 226 pages

Rare books librarian Juniper Blume knows this much… an ancient Celtic manuscript shouldn’t be in a Maryland cemetery. But that’s exactly what her brother-in-law claims.

Last year, Juniper saw the 1,200-year-old Book of Kells in Ireland. She learned how their bejeweled covers were stolen centuries ago, never to be seen again. So how could they have ended up in Rose Mallow, a small Chesapeake Bay town? Being Jewish, the Book of Kells might not be her sacred text, but as a rare books librarian, the ancient book is still sacred to her, making it important to Juniper to find out the truth.

Rose Mallow is the same place where Juniper used to summer with her sister Azalea and their grandmother Zinnia, known as Nana Z. Ever since Nana Z passed away, Juniper’s avoided returning, but her curiosity is greater than her grief, so she heads down in her vintage convertible with her rescue dog Clover.

Juniper discovers that her sister Azalea has transformed their grandmother’s Queen Anne style mansion into the Wildflower Inn, backing up to the Chesapeake Bay. Although Juniper isn’t much of a cook, Azalea has kept their grandmother’s legacy alive, filling the house with the smells of East European Jewish treats, like sweet kugels and tzimmes cake. Will coming back here feel like returning home or fill Juniper with a deeper sorrow? Can she apologize to her sister for not being there when she was needed most?

Book Excerpt

My 1965, robin’s egg blue convertible backfired as I parked in front of the Wildflower Inn. The noise set off Clover barking in the backseat. Not exactly the quiet homecoming I’d hoped for. I jumped out of my Karmann-Ghia – or “KG” as I’d nicknamed her – to check under the hood, hoping I wouldn’t need to get the roadster serviced yet again. No idea where that money would come from.

A screaming, ranting madwoman poured out of a neighboring house. Maybe in her late seventies, she brandished a large umbrella. I dropped the hood to find the umbrella pointing at me. Clover – all twenty pounds of him – jumped out and started growling.

“Easy, boy,” I said.

“You shoot something off, Missy? Here to cause trouble? Because I’m on the board of the Friends of the Rose Mallow Police.” the woman said. She wore a perfectly fitted Mamie Eisenhower pink skirt suit with enormous pearls – straight out of the 1950s. Her white bouffant billowed around her head. She reminded me of a researcher I’d helped earlier that day at the Library of Congress. That woman had been a murder mystery author looking for books about early detectives. This woman looked like she wanted to murder someone – namely me.

About Daphne Silver

Daphne Silver is the author of the Rare Books Cozy Mystery series. She’s worked more than twenty years in museums and has the great fortune of being married to a librarian. When she’s not writing, she’s drawing and painting. She lives in Maryland with her family. Although she’s not much of a baker, she won’t ever turn down a sweet lokshen kugel.

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Sunday, November 26, 2023

Butterfly Betrayal - A Review & Giveaway


The First Seneca James Mystery 

Seneca James has inherited her grandmother's farm but is struggling to grow enough milkweed to support the Monarch butterflies she raises. She needs the property next door but her elderly neighbor, who had always been nice and gracious, has done an about face, reneging on the contract to sell her his land. She then finds her lawyer, dead in her greenhouse. Seneca's best friend, the sheriff, is there to support her, but it seems as if most of the town has betrayed her. Will Seneca be able to save her butterflies and herself?

BUTTERFLY BETRAYAL has the markings of the coziest of cozy mysteries. The protagonist protects and raises butterflies and there's a cat who loves wearing butterfly outfits. That screams cute and cozy. The truth is a lot darker. The majority of the townsfolk we meet, people Seneca has knows her whole life, are duplicitous, nasty people. I want to spend time and hang out with the characters in cozies, but while I'd love to see the butterflies and Winifred's outfits while getting a bite to eat at the cafe-I don't want to visit this town. With cruel acts (don't worry, Winifred's fine) the book has more of a traditional mystery vibe, albeit with some very cute aspects.

The sting of betrayal and the reluctance to request help are the hallmarks of the first Seneca James Mystery. I like Seneca and Cody and adore Winifred. I also hope to see more of Murray. With red herrings and misdirection, the mystery was well executed. There was a major clue given at the start of the book that I knew was important, although I wasn't sure what it meant until the truth was revealed. 

BUTTERFLY BETRAYAL is a unique small town mystery with friendship and betrayal at its core.


Butterfly Betrayal: A Seneca James Mystery by Ruth J Hartman

About Butterfly Betrayal

Butterfly Betrayal: A Seneca James Mystery
Cozy Mystery 1st in Series
Setting - Rural Indiana
Level Best Books (November 21, 2023)
Print length: ‎ 289 Pages

Raising butterflies is peaceful and calm, until someone dies.

Majestic Monarch Butterfly Farm might flitter away forever. That is, unless Seneca James acquires the property next door. She and Winifred, her costume-wearing cat, have a fight on their hands. Their land sits next to a milkweed-covered field, essential for monarchs. If she’s unsuccessful in buying it, her precious, winged friends won’t survive. When people end up dead on her farmland, Seneca is suspected of murder.

What is it about the milkweed field that’s worth killing for? And who’s the murderer?

About Ruth J. Hartman

Ruth J. Hartman spends her days herding cats and her nights spinning mysterious tales. She, her husband, and their cats love to spend time curled up in their recliners watching old Cary Grant movies. Well, the cats sit in the people's recliners. Not that the cats couldn't get their own furniture. They just choose to shed on someone else's.

Ruth, a left-handed, cat-herding, farmhouse-dwelling writer uses her sense of humor as she writes tales of lovable, klutzy women who seem to find trouble without even trying.

Ruth's husband and best friend, Garry, reads her manuscripts, rolls his eyes at her weird story ideas, and loves her despite her insistence all of her books have at least one cat in them. See updates about her cozy mysteries at

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Friday, November 24, 2023

The Stuff of Murder - An Interview & Review

I'm pleased to welcome Kathleen Marple Kalb back to Cozy Up With Kathy. Kathleen starts a new series with THE STUFF OF MURDER, the first book in the Old Stuff Mystery series. It was released last week!

Kathy: In THE STUFF OF MURDER a small Connecticut town becomes the setting for a movie, with Christian Shaw acting as a consultant. Have you ever been involved in a movie production? Would you want one filming in your town?

KMK: Working in New York, I’ve walked past a bunch of them on my way to or from the office…but I don’t think I’d want one in my town! I’ve never been directly involved in a movie, though I think I’d like to try writing a script someday.

Kathy: Christian deals with old stuff, in particular, 18th and 19th century household goods. If you could have an expertise in historical items, what would your specialization be?

KMK: Clothes! My favorite thing about researching and writing historical mysteries is that I get to dress the characters. A lot of that research ends up in the Old Stuff series, too. And, like Christian, I get a little bit of a vibe from old clothes, so it would be really nice to work with them.

Kathy: Several pets make their home with Christian and her friends. Are you fortunate enough to have animals in your life? Are any of them similar to the animals in this series?

KMK: Yes! Cookie, Christian and Henry’s cat, is inspired by our late tuxedo kitty, Merritt. She was as loving and protective of my son as Cookie is of Henry. Our current kitty, Rheba, is much more like the Empress Frederick, the demanding little diva of the Historical Society.

Kathy: Christian's son, Henry has Type 1 diabetes. Was there a specific reason to give him this diagnosis?

KMK: I’m always looking for ways to make my stories and characters reflect the real world. During the pandemic, our neighbor’s son was diagnosed with Type 1, so I got up to speed for playdates, and put his mom in touch with my closest friend, whose adult son also has Type 1. I was working on THE STUFF OF MURDER one afternoon during a playdate. And I thought, why not write the condition be a normal part of life? Especially since most of the time you see a character with diabetes in a mystery it’s just as an excuse to use insulin as a weapon.

Kathy: Henry also has a photographic memory. Would you like to have this ability?

KMK: Mine is borderline photographic, but my son has a true photographic memory and it’s a little scary. And, like Henry, he sees the world a little differently. It’s a gift for tests and such…but can be a bit weird in real life. For the character of Henry, though, it’s perfect because it gives him a key crime-solving skill, as well as a defining quality that has nothing to do with his medical condition.

Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for this story?

KMK: Initially, I was just looking for a way to use some of the research that didn’t make it into my historical mysteries. While I was noodling, I remembered that my mom and I used to love watching the old Alan Alda movie Sweet Liberty, in which a film crew comes to a college town and ruins everything. I thought – hmm, what if we did that with a murder?

Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

KMK: The Ella Shane series is coming back at Level Best Books! A FATAL RECEPTION – the wedding book! – is due next April. Let’s just say Ella and her duke make it to the altar…but not before they have to deal with a murder, a shipwreck, a questionable Polish prince – and more! 



THE STUFF OF MURDER by Kathleen Marple Kalb
The First Old Stuff Mystery 

Christian Shaw knows her stuff...particularly old stuff. Head of the Unity Historical Society she also does consulting work, such as working with the movie production currently filming in her hometown. The movie, a version of The Scarlet Letter, is supposed to mark the comeback of Brett Studebaker. While filming an impassioned speech, he looks positively apoplectic. It's not, however, great acting. The actor falls off the pulpit upon which he was preaching and winds up dead. With the possibility of murder, Assistant State's Attorney is starting to ask questions and Christian, along with her friends and family are more than willing to help.

THE STUFF OF MURDER is ultimately a book about people. There is a murder, but the story is less about the investigation than it is about the people of Unity, Connecticut. It's actually much more realistic than most mysteries. Christian doesn't happen upon a murder and decide she's going to investigate and solve it. Rather the State's Attorney calls upon her expertise, she stumbles upon things and makes realizations then immediately calls him or the police, like a normal person would, but so few amateur sleuths do. 

As this is the first book in the series there is a lot of exposition. However, there could have been less expounding and rather more showing. While it was interesting learning about Christian's religious beliefs as it impacts who she is, far too much time was spend on it as it really wasn't relevant to the plot. I did however, love all the historical details and how the Society works. Christian makes a great protagonist, smart, caring, and witty. She surrounds herself with great people too. I especially love all of the animals and am still laughing at Cookie and her reaction to Cannoli. Poor Cannoli. I also like the possibility of a second chance at romance for this widow. This subplot is a significant part of the book-so those who just want the murder and investigation may be frustrated. I, however, like it!  

THE STUFF OF MURDER is a fresh timely mystery that connects people while serving justice.


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