Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Body in the Casket - An Interview & Giveaway

I am pleased to welcome Katherine Hall Page back to Cozy Up With Kathy. Katherine writes the Faith Fairchild Mystery Series. The Body in the Casket is the 24th book in the series and was released earlier this month.

Kathy: The Body in the Casket is said to evoke both the board game Clue and the film Murder by Death. Those are two of my favorites! Do you like Clue? Do you ever play the board game?

KHP: I come from a board playing family and Clue is our all-time favorite. Somehow I managed to marry someone whose only fault is a disinclination to have anything to do with these games, even Scrabble! Happily during the summer and at the holidays I always have fellow enthusiasts. I have several editions of Clue, including one from the 1950s. The game, Cluedo, was invented in England in 1949. The name was changed to Clue in the US by Parker Brothers, as well as other things—Dr. Black, the victim, became Mr. Boddy—but the basic game is the same.

Kathy: Murder by Death is my favorite mystery movie and ranks as one of my top 5 films of all time. Is it one of yours as well? Do you have a favorite scene? Or character?

KHP: It is absolutely one of my all time favorites and picking a scene is like asking to pick a favorite child! I do love Alec Guinness as the blind butler and the Charlestons (think Nick and Nora)—David Niven and Maggie Smith are perfection. You got me thinking about other mystery movies, aside from those starring Michael Caine, which I mention in my Author’s Note: Deathtrap and Sleuth. I know it was panned, but I’ve always liked the 1985 movie, Clue, especially Madeline Kahn and Christopher Lloyd’s performances. One of my other all time favorites is the British movie, The Wrong Box (also Michael Caine, a very young one). And then of course The Maltese Falcon and the original Murder on the Orient Express. I could go on…And am curious about your five favorites overall. North By Northwest tops my list! P.S. Charles Adams did the fabulous poster for Murder by Death.

Kathy: In The Body in the Casket Faith Fairchild is invited to a birthday party for a Broadway legend. Have you attended a performance of Broadway? Do you prefer musicals or plays?

KHP: I grew up in northern New Jersey not far from New York City and going to the theater was a major, and favorite, part of my life. You could go from box office to box office before a Saturday matinee and get inexpensive tickets for plays or musicals. I was lucky to see musicals like The King and I, as well as dramas—Richard Burton in Hamlet was the highpoint. Again in the Author’s Note, I write about all this. It is terrible that Broadway ticket prices have made theater almost inaccessible. Fortunately we have great local and regional productions. As for preferring plays or musicals, it all depends on the show!

Kathy: Faith is invited to Rowan House is a secluded sprawling Arts and Crafts mansion. Is this mansion based on a real property? Is Arts and Crafts a favorite architectural style for you?

KHP: First, yes the Arts and Crafts style is my favorite, both in its architectural and decorative forms in the US as well as the UK. And Rowan House is most definitely based on a real property in almost every way—Stonehurst, the Robert Treat Paine estate in Waltham, Massachusetts. It was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson with landscape design by Frederick Law Olmsted and I think it’s the only one of their collaborations that is open to the public. Stonehurst was completed in 1886 and sits on 109 acres. We live only a few miles away, but I had never heard of it (like Faith and Rowan House) until we went there for a friend’s wedding. Since then I have returned to both the house and walking trails often. Stonehurst is a gem!

Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for this story?

KHP: As you have already figured out—the game of Clue! I’ve always wanted to write a traditional country house mystery, inspired by and an homage to Agatha Christie. Hercule Poirot was introduced in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. My love of theater supplied the rest. The producer, Max Dane, is throwing himself a 70th birthday weekend long party with Faith as caterer (and undercover sleuth). All the guests were involved in his only failed production 20 years earlier—Heaven or Hell The Musical. Faith comes up with dishes for the birthday dinner that reference both—Pasta Fra Diavolo, Fallen Angel cocktails and others. It was fun researching dishes that related to above or below!

Kathy: Are you able to share any future plans for Faith?

KHP: I have started on the 25th book in the series, The Body in the Wake, which takes place on Sanpere, the island I created in Penobscot Bay in Maine. I am bringing back Sophie Maxwell who appeared in The Body in the Birches and The Body in the Wardrobe. I like the interactions she and Faith have had as they worked together to unmask the killers in the books. Sophie, a young bride, and Faith with teenaged kids, are at different points in their lives, but total kindred spirits.

Kathy: When it comes to writing I understand there are 2 general camps-plotters, who diligently plot their stories, and pansters, who fly by the seat of their pants. Are you a plotter, a panster, or do you fall somewhere in between?

KHP: Like most writers the plot and characters (other than Faith, her family and friends), percolate for a while before writing a single word. When I do put finger to key, I know whodunit and to whom it was done. As I write things may change, particularly with subplots, but I always know where I am going.

Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

KHP: I have written for younger readers—the Christie & Company series—also a series cookbook, Have Faith in Your Kitchen, a number of short stories, and a YA, Club Meds. I have an idea for a novella in the first person, Faith’s closest friend and neighbor Pix Miller in which she describes one of Faith’s cases much like Watson. I also have an idea for a romantic suspense novel that I hope to write one of these days. Mary Stewart is a favorite of mine. 


The Body in the Casket

by Katherine Hall Page

on Tour December 4, 2017 - January 12, 2018


The inimitable Faith Fairchild returns in a chilling New England whodunit, inspired by the best Agatha Christie mysteries and with hints of the timeless board game Clue.

For most of her adult life, resourceful caterer Faith Fairchild has called the sleepy Massachusetts village of Aleford home. While the native New Yorker has come to know the region well, she isn’t familiar with Havencrest, a privileged enclave, until the owner of Rowan House, a secluded sprawling Arts and Crafts mansion, calls her about catering a weekend house party.
Producer/director of a string of hit musicals, Max Dane—a Broadway legend—is throwing a lavish party to celebrate his seventieth birthday. At the house as they discuss the event, Faith’s client makes a startling confession. "I didn’t hire you for your cooking skills, fine as they may be, but for your sleuthing ability. You see, one of the guests wants to kill me."
Faith’s only clue is an ominous birthday gift the man received the week before—an empty casket sent anonymously containing a twenty-year-old Playbill from Max’s last, and only failed, production—Heaven or Hell. Consequently, Max has drawn his guest list for the party from the cast and crew. As the guests begin to arrive one by one, and an ice storm brews overhead, Faith must keep one eye on the menu and the other on her host to prevent his birthday bash from becoming his final curtain call.
Full of delectable recipes, brooding atmosphere, and Faith’s signature biting wit, The Body in the Casket is a delightful thriller that echoes the beloved mysteries of Agatha Christie and classic films such as Murder by Death and Deathtrap.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: December 5th 2017
Number of Pages: 238
ISBN: 0062439561 (ISBN13: 9780062439567)
Series: Faith Fairchild, 24
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  | Goodreads 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

“Have Faith in Your Kitchen,” Faith Fairchild said, answering the phone at her catering firm. She’d been busy piping choux pastry for éclairs onto a baking sheet.
“Mrs. Fairchild?”
“Yes? This is Faith Fairchild. How may I help you?”
“Please hold for Max Dane.” The voice had a plummy, slightly British tone, reminiscent of Jeeves, or Downton Abbey’s Carson. The only Max Dane Faith had heard of had been a famous Broadway musical producer, but she was pretty sure he’d died years ago. This must be another Max Dane.
She was put through quickly and a new voice said, “Hi. I know this is short notice, but I am very much hoping you are available to handle a house party I’m throwing for about a dozen guests at the end of the month. A Friday to Sunday. Not just dinner, but all the meals.”
Faith had never catered anything like this. A Friday to Sunday sounded like something out of a British pre-World War II country house novel—kippers for breakfast, Fortnum & Mason type hampers for the shoot, tea and scones, drinks and nibbles, then saddle of lamb or some other large haunch of meat for dinner with vintage clarets followed by port and Stilton—for the men only. She was intrigued.
“The first thing I need to know is where you live, Mr. Dane. Also, is this a firm date? We’ve had a mild winter so far, but January may still deliver a wallop like last year.”
A Manhattan native, Faith’s marriage more than 20 years ago to the Reverend Thomas Fairchild meant a radical change of address— from the Big Apple to the orchards of Aleford, a small suburb west of Boston. Faith had never become used to boiled dinners, First Parish’s rock hard pews and most of all, New England weather. By the end of the previous February there had been 75 inches of snow on the ground and you couldn’t see through the historic parsonage’s ground floor windows or open the front door. Teenage son Ben struggled valiantly to keep the back door clear, daily hewing a path to the garage. The resulting tunnel resembled a clip from Nanook of the North.
“I’m afraid the date is firm. The thirtieth is my birthday. A milestone one, my seventieth.” Unlike his butler or whoever had called Faith to the phone, Max Dane’s voice indicated he’d started life in one of the five boroughs. Faith was guessing the Bronx. He sounded a bit sheepish when he said “ my birthday,” as if throwing a party for himself was out of character. “And I live in Havencrest. It’s not far from Aleford, but I’d want you to be available at the house the whole time. Live in.”
Leaving her family for three days was not something Faith did often, especially since Sunday was a workday for Tom and all too occasionally Saturday was as he “polished” his sermon. (His term, which she had noticed over the years, could mean writing the whole thing.)
Ben and Amy, two years younger, seemed old enough to be on their own, but Faith had found that contrary to expectations, kids needed parents around more in adolescence than when they were toddlers. Every day brought the equivalent of scraped knees and they weren’t the kind of hurts that could be soothed by Pat The Bunny and a chocolate chip cookie. She needed more time to think about taking the job. “I’m not sure I can leave my family…” was interrupted. “I quite understand that this would be difficult,” Dane said and then he named a figure so far above anything she had ever been offered that she actually covered her mouth to keep from gasping out loud.
“Look,” he continued. “Why don’t you come by and we’ll talk in person? You can see the place and decide then. I don’t use it myself, but the kitchen is well equipped—the rest of the house too. I’ll email directions and you can shoot me some times that work. This week if possible. I want to send out the invites right away.”
Well, it wouldn’t hurt to talk, Faith thought. And she did like seeing other people’s houses. She agreed, but before she hung up curiosity won out and she asked, “Are you related to the Max Dane who produced all those wonderful Broadway musicals?”
“Very closely. As in one and the same. See you soon.”
Faith put the phone down and turned to Pix Miller, her closest friend and part-time Have Faith employee.
“That was someone wanting Have Faith to cater a weekend long birthday celebration—for an astonishing amount of money.” She named the figure in a breathless whisper. “His name is Max Dane. Have you ever heard of him?”
“Even I know who Max Dane is. Sam took me to New York the December after we were married and we saw one of his shows. It was magical—the whole weekend was. No kids yet. We were kids ourselves. We skated at Rockefeller Center by the tree and…”
Her friend didn’t go in for sentimental journeys and tempted as she was to note Pix and Sam skated on Aleford Pond then and now, Faith didn’t want to stop the flow of memories. “Where did you stay? A suite at the Plaza?” Sam was a very successful lawyer.
Pix came down to earth. “We barely had money for the show and pre-theater dinner at Twenty-One. That was the big splurge. I honestly can’t remember where we stayed and I should, because that’s where—” She stopped abruptly and blushed, also unusual Pix behavior.
“Say no more. Nine months later along came Mark?”
“Something like that,” Pix mumbled and then in her usual more assertive voice, added “You have to do this. Not because of the money, although the man must be loaded! Think of who might be there. And the house must be amazing. We don’t have anything booked for then and I can keep an eye on the kids.”
The Millers lived next door to the parsonage and their three now grown children had been the Fairchilds’ babysitters. Pix played a more essential role: Faith’s tutor in the unforeseen intricacies of childrearing as well as Aleford’s often arcane mores. Faith’s first social faux pas as a new bride—inviting guests for dinner at eight o’clock— had happily been avoided when her first invite, Pix, gently told Faith the town’s inhabitants would be thinking bed soon at that hour, not a main course.
Faith had started her catering business in the city that never slept before she was married and was busy all year long. Here January was always a slow month for business. The holidays were over and things didn’t start to pick up until Valentine’s Day—and even then scheduling events was risky. It all came down to weather.
Pix was at the computer. Years ago she’d agreed to work at Have Faith keeping the books, the calendar, inventory—anything that did not involve any actual food preparation.
“We have a couple of receptions at the Ganley Museum and the MLK breakfast the standing clergy host.”
The first time Faith heard the term, “standing clergy”, which was the town’s men and women of any cloth, she pictured an upright somberly garbed group in rows like ninepins. And she hadn’t been far off.
“That’s pretty much it,” Pix added, “except for a few luncheons and Amelia’s baby shower—I think she baby sat for you a couple of times when she was in high school.”
“I remember she was very reliable,” Faith said.
“Hard to believe she’s the same age as Samantha and having her second!” Pix sounded wistful. She was the type of woman born to wear a “I Spoil My Grandchildren” tee shirt. Faith wouldn’t be surprised if there were a drawer somewhere in the Miller’s house filled with tiny sweaters and booties knit by Pix, “just to be ready.” Mark Miller, the oldest, was married, but he and his wife did not seem to be in a rush to start a family.
Samantha, the middle Miller, had a long-term beau, Caleb. They were living together in trendy Park Slope, Brooklyn and Sam, an old-fashioned pater familias, had to be restrained from asking Caleb his intentions each time the young couple came to Aleford. Pix was leaning that way herself, she’d told Faith recently, noting that young couples these days were so intent on careers they didn’t hear the clock ticking.
Faith had forgotten that Amelia—who apparently had paid attention to time— was Samantha’s age and quickly changed the subject to what was uppermost in her mind—the Dane job. “Where is Havencrest?” she asked. “I thought I knew all the neighboring towns.”
“It’s not really a town so much as an enclave between Weston and Dover. I don’t think it even has a zip code. I’ve never been there, but Mother has. You can ask her about it. The houses all date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I believe there’s a gatehouse at the entrance. It’s an early equivalent of the mid century modern planned communities like Moon Hill in Lexington. Havencrest wasn’t a bunch of architects like that one though. Just very rich Boston Brahmin families who wanted privacy and plenty of space. I wonder how Max Dane ended up there? From what Mother has said, the houses don’t change hands, just generations.”
“I think I’ll check my email and see if there’s anything from him yet,” Faith said. “And maybe drop by to see Ursula on my way home.” Stopping to visit with Ursula Lyman Rowe, Pix’s mother, was no chore. The octogenarian was one of Faith’s favorite people. She turned back to the éclairs, which were part of a special order, and added a few more to bring to her friend.
“I know you’ll take the job,” Pix said. “I’m predicting the weekend of a lifetime!”
Excerpt from The Body in the Casket by Katherine Hall Page. Copyright © 2017 by William Morrow. Reproduced with permission from William Morrow. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Katherine Hall Page is the author of twenty-three previous Faith Fairchild mysteries, the first of which received the Agatha Award for best first mystery. The Body in the Snowdrift was honored with the Agatha Award for best novel of 2006. Page also won an Agatha for her short story "The Would-Be Widower." The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at Malice Domestic, she has been nominated for the Edgar Award, the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and the Macavity Award. She lives in Massachusetts, and Maine, with her husband.


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Tour Participants:

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Friday, December 29, 2017

Pre-Meditated Murder - Review


The Fifth Downward Dog Mystery

Kate Davidson, a former commitment-phobe, is finally ready to settle down and is thrilled when she thinks that Michael's fancy special evening out is a prelude to a marriage proposal. Unable to hide her disappointment when he didn't propose Michael admits the truth; he couldn't marry her as he was already married!!!! Michael says he only married Gabriella so that she could get a green card, but she won't grant him a divorce unless he pays her off-with money he doesn't have. When Michael decides to meet Gabriella in person, he's accompanied not only by Kate and Bella, but Renee, Sam, the twins, and the two puppies. What could go wrong with this support group by his side? A lot. Now Michael's suspected of Gabriella's murder, and although Kate was ready to kill him herself, she'll do her utmost to prove his innocence. 

PRE-MEDITATED MURDER is a compelling read. Expectations of love are challenged and explored in this multilayered mystery. Fundamental beliefs in people are put to the test and certainties become doubts. Will love survive?

This fifth Downward Dog mystery tackles difficult subjects of domestic abuse, immigration, and more. However, the book isn't weighed down by these weighty subjects, not does it become a pulpit. Rather it engulfs these topics into Kate's world, and they play important roles in the mystery itself.

Bella's charm, humor from new mom Renee, and a cast of characters from Michael's past combine to make a murder mystery that will forever change Kate and her future.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Olmec Obituary by L.J.M. Owen. This book is the first in the Dr. Pimms Intermillennial Sleuth Mystery series.

The sudden death of Dr. Elizabeth Pimms' father forces her to give up her dream job, working on an archaeological dig with her boyfriend, and return home to Australia to work as a librarian in order to support her family. When a former classmate offers her a chance to join an archeology team in town Elizabeth can't resist, even if she has to volunteer her time on weekends while still performing her library duties. As her research unfolds, Elizabeth finds serious flaws with the original findings and the hypotheses surrounding the dig itself. Will Elizabeth discover the true story behind the skeletons? And will she come to terms with her family?

Olmec Obituary weaves the modern day story of Dr. Pimms and her investigation with the ancient story of the people behind those skeletons.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Not a Creature was Purring - Spotlight

On this Christmas Eve I'd like to shine a spotlight on Not a Creature was Purring by Krista Davis. This book is the fifth book in the Paws and Claws Mystery series.

From the back cover:

Inn owner Holly Miller finds it ruff staying cheerful over the holidays when the dead body of a beloved businessman turns up in the pet-friendly town of Wagtail, Virginia.

Inspired by her German heritage, Holly's grandmother has arranged for Wagtail to have a Christkindl Market packed with goodies and decorations for the holiday tourists. But Holly's mood takes an unseasonable turn when she learns that her old flame and childhood friend Holmes Richardson has brought his fiance home-and she'll be staying at the Sugar Maple Inn...

A love triangle becomes the last thing on Holly's mind when her Jack Russell Trixie's nose for trouble leads her to the corpse of a pet clothing tycoon. Now Holly and her dedicated detectives-Trixie and Twinkletoes the cat-must sniff out the killer to keep Christmas from going to the dogs...

Friday, December 22, 2017

Mistletoe and Mayhem - Spotlight

Kate Kingsbury wrote the wonderful Penneyfoot Hotel Mystery series. The series ended back in 1999 with Maid to Murder. Since then, however, Kate has brought the staff back for several Christmas mysteries through the years. In 2010 we had Mistletoe and Mayhem, and that is the book I'd like to talk about today!

From the back cover:

This Christmas holiday, guests and staff alike are coming together under the kissing bough in the entryway of the Pennyfoot ballroom...only to fall victim to a cold-blooded killer. 

As friends, family, and guest gather at the Pennyfoot to share the joys of the season, Cecily Sinclair Baxter and her staff are hustling and bustling more than ever. Cecily's dear friend Madeline arrives with her new baby and adds a kissing bough to the festive decorations. Cecily gets in the spirit by kissing the precious baby beneath the bough, believing that the holiday couldn't be off to a better start.

But after a footman, last spotted kissing the new maid under the bough, turns up dead, the downstairs staff is convinced a serial killer is spending the holidays at the Pennyfoot-perhaps the mysterious guest known only as J. Mortimer. When Madeline's baby disappears, Cecily has her hands full desperately trying to find the child. If she doesn't catch this killer in time, everyone's cheer will quickly turn to fear...

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Pre-Meditated Murder by Tracy Weber. This book is the fifth in the Downward Dog Mystery series and will be released January 8th.

Kate Davidson, a former committment-phobe, is finally ready to settle down and is thrilled when she thinks that Michael's fancy special evening out is a prelude to a marriage proposal. Unable to hide her disappointment when he didn't propose Michael admits the truth; he couldn't marry her as he was already married!!!! Michael says he only married Gabriella so that she could get a green card, but she won't grant him a divorce unless he pays her off-with money he doesn't have. When Michael decides to meet Gabriella in person, he's accompanied not only by Kate and Bella, but Renee, Sam, the twins, and the two puppies. What could go wrong with this support group by his side? A lot. Now Michael's suspected of Gabriella's murder, and although Kate was ready to kill him herself, she'll do her utmost to prove his innocence.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Tulip Shirt Murders - An Interview & Giveaway

I'm happy to welcome Heather Weidner to the blog today. Heather writes the Delanie Fitzgerald Mystery series. THE TULIP SHIRT MURDERS is the second book in the series and was released last month.

Kathy: In THE TULIP SHIRT MURDERS Private investigator Delanie Fitzgerald, and her computer hacker partner, Duncan Reynolds look into music bootlegging. When I think of bootlegging I immediately think of the What's Happening episode with the Doobie Brothers. What made you think about bootlegging for this book?

HW: I live in Chesterfield County, and all the police officers wear green uniforms. When we first moved here, I thought there were a lot of forest rangers. I asked once why they were green (most other departments are blue or black). They said that in the early days of the 1900s, they went with the revenuers out in the woods, and the green was good camouflage. I am also a part of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia. We had a guest law enforcement officer from the Alcohol Beverage and Control Board, and he talked about how stills were still prevalent in rural areas, so that gave me the idea to have the Emerson Brothers bootleg more than stolen CDs.

Kathy: I've always been interested in Roller Derby. Have you ever competed? Or watched a match?

HW: I am fascinated by it too. I would love to go to a match. When I was little, it would be on TV on Sunday mornings. I would watch Roller Derby before we went to church.

Kathy: What first drew you to humorous mysteries?

HW: I have always loved mysteries, and the humorous ones were always my favorite. I love Janet Evanovich, Donna Andrews, and Sparkle Abbey, to name a few. (My life is more like a SitCom than a drama, so I think I’m always drawn to comedies.)

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

HW: All of my novels and short stories are mysteries (traditional, PI, and/or female sleuth). I was a technical writer early in my IT career, so I’ve written lots of user manuals and how-tos, but they’re not as much fun as the mysteries.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

HW: I write the Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries. She’s a spunky, sassy Private Investigator who gets into way more trouble than I do. I enjoy writing (and reading) fast-paced mysteries with a humorous edge. Delanie has no fear, and she often gets herself in (and out of) sticky situations. I’m currently working on the third book in this series, and the first book in a new cozy mystery series.

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

HW: Delanie is my favorite because I think of her as a grown up Nancy Drew, and I love to write about her adventures. But Margaret and Chaz are also favorites. Margaret is Delanie’s partner Duncan’s English bulldog, or the log with legs. She’s not much security, but she’s good company. And she rules the Falcon Investigations office. Chaz is the sleazy strip club owner who hired Delanie in the first book to get some dirt on the mayor. When the mayor ended up dead in front of his “gentleman’s club,” Delanie had to spend her summer trying to clear Chaz’s name. He’s sleazy, rude, and has the worst table manners, but he grows on you after a while. He’s fun to write. And he’s decided to run for mayor in THE TULIP SHIRT MURDERS, so he’ll definitely be back in book three.

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

HW: I met a female private investigator at a Sister in Crime – Central Virginia presentation, and she talked about her adventures. I liked the idea that my character could be close to law enforcement, but not a police officer, and she had the freedom to investigate and follow up leads that a normal person wouldn’t have. And I like to think of Delanie as a grown up Nancy Drew. I have loved mysteries since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. As a young reader, I adored Nancy’s freedom. She had a car. She did things that other girls didn’t, and she solved crimes that adults couldn’t. She influenced generations of women from the 1930s to the present with her spunk and enduring appeal. Delanie is my homage to Nancy Drew.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

HW: I have wanted to be a writer since I was in middle school. I love to read all kinds of books, but I’m always attracted to mysteries. It seemed like the perfect fit. I also joined Sisters in Crime a few years back, and they are so supportive of mystery readers and writers. They helped me along my writing journey to publication.

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

HW: That’s a tough one. I’m going to stick with the mystery theme. I’m going to go with Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mildred A. Wirt Benson. And we would have a lively conversation about all things mystery and thriller. Poe is considered to be the father of the mystery. He lived and worked here in Richmond, VA, so I’d have lots of questions about his writing (and his mysterious death in Baltimore). Agatha Christie, one of the bestselling novelists of all time, has been a favorite for many years. She had a fascinating life in addition to all her writing credits. I’d like to learn more about her real life mystery when she disappeared for 11 days in December 1926. I love all incarnations of Sherlock Holmes, so I’ve invited Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I want to learn more about his sleuth and sidekick. I’d also like to know more about his feud with Harry Houdini. And my last guest would be Mildred A. Wirt Benson. She wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew mysteries under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene. She wanted her sleuth to be spunky and not “namby pamby” like some of the traditional “girl” novels of the time. I want to thank her for giving us a sleuth that has been an inspiration for so many through the decades.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

HW: I just finished Janet Evanovich’s HARDCORE TWENTY-FOUR. Right now, I’m reading Lee Child’s THE MIDNIGHT LINE. My TBR (to be read) pile is huge. But there’s always something good to read.

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

HW: My husband rebuilds classic Mustangs, and right now he’s working on a rebuild of a Triumph Spitfire. The car thing is his hobby, but I get to go to the car shows and outings. I love to read and write. We like to kayak in the warmer weather. And I love to take pictures during our travels.

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

HW: Chocolate (all writers need chocolate for plotting), cheese, bacon, and dog treats. The latter is for my two crazy Jack Russell terriers. I have to bribe them with treats if I want to take their picture.

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

HW: I’m working on a cozy pet novella project that will come out next year. I’m also working on the first book in a new series, and that is also a cozy mystery. And I’m writing the third book in the Delanie series.

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

HW: I love talking to readers about books and mysteries. I get to meet so many neat people on social media and at book events. It is incredible fun!

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Honey-Baked Homicide - Review & Giveaway


The Third Down South Cafe Mystery

Mr. Landon's honey is so tasty that Amy Flowers decided not only to use it at her Down Home Cafe, but sell jars of it on consignment. With the honey selling quicker than anticipated, Amy decides to ask for additional jars only to find the quiet beekeeper livid. His neighbor has been improperly spraying pesticides, killing many of his bees. Amy's concerns over Mr. Langdon's vow to handle matters increase when a stranger comes to town looking for him. But nothing could prepare her for finding his murdered body in front of her cafe. Enmeshed in his death, Amy finds herself threatened while simply trying to help. Just who was Mr. Landon? And more importantly, who wanted him dead?

HONEY-BAKED HOMICIDE is a great addition to the series. I enjoy seeing Amy's relationship with Ryan grow and the fun she has with her friends and family. The book also touches on some very important environmental and societal issues, particularly the effect of pesticides on bees. There is a lot of conflict in this book, which drives the mystery and makes it more difficult to solve. 

HONEY-BAKED HOMICIDE induces lots of heart stopping moments as Amy deals with some new characters while discovering the past Mr. Landon tried to leave behind and the future of Winter Garden itself. 

Recipes Included.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

A Murder for the Books Interview & Review

I'm pleased to welcome Victoria Gilbert to the blog today. Victoria writes the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series. A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS is the first book in the series and was released this past Tuesday.

Kathy: Amy Webber moves to Taylorsford, Virginia in the first Blue Ridge Library Mystery. She lives with her aunt in the family’s historic home. I love old homes and architecture and their house sounds like a treasure, even if it needs some work. Do you enjoy classic architecture and design?

VG: Yes, I love it! I actually minored in Art History as an undergraduate, and have a great appreciation for fine architecture and all forms of art. I love the architecture of the Victorian period in terms of home design, but I’m not so fond of the heavy, dark, furniture of that period. I prefer the furniture and decorative arts represented by Art Nouveau, the Craftsman era, and Art Deco. I’m also a fan of more minimalist, modern architecture, especially when it fits its setting well (like in NYC or other cities).

Kathy: In A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS Amy and Richard look into a mysterious case from the past. Have you ever gotten involved with scandals from the past?

VG: Not involved, but there was a supposed scandal in my family that compelled my great-aunt to hide some historical documents from the rest of the family. After her death we discovered that one of our ancestors (from the 1700s!) had been branded because he was convicted of manslaughter in a carriage or wagon accident. (He did not mean to kill anyone, but was found negligent, and back then the punishment for such things was much more severe). Apparently my great-aunt thought this was something scandalous that she had to hide from the family.

Kathy: Do you ever research unsolved true crimes?

VG: I have certainly read about quite a few of them. I find it fascinating to read the known facts and compiled research, and then evaluate the theories, especially about historical crimes.

Kathy: Richard is a dancer. Are you a fan of dance? Do you have a favorite form?

VG: Yes, I am a fan. I cannot dance a lick myself, but I love to watch it, and I greatly admire anyone who can dance well.

I enjoy many forms of dance, but my favorite is contemporary, or “modern dance” as it is sometimes called. When I lived in NYC I had the good fortune to see performances by many fabulous companies, like Pilobolus, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Joffrey Ballet, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, ABT, the New York City Ballet, and the Paul Taylor Dance Company, among others. I’ve also worked for many years at a university with an excellent dance program, so I drew inspiration from that as well.

Kathy: There is a hint of the paranormal to be found here. Do you believe in spirits? Have you ever had a ghostly encounter?

VG: Honestly, like Amy, I am a skeptic, but I do have an open mind about such things. I think it is possible that ghosts or spirits exist—I’ve just never seen any evidence that absolutely convinces me (yet). As you can tell, I have not had a ghostly encounter myself, or I might be more certain! However, I do not rule out the possibility, and I certainly don’t immediately dismiss other people’s reports, or their belief in such things.

Curious tidbit: A historic home that is (very loosely, as in distant cousins from way back) linked to my father’s family is considered one of the most haunted homes in the United States!

Kathy: Partly because she’s a librarian, Amy is a wiz at research. I picked up a tip or two myself while reading. Do you enjoy doing research?

VG: Yes, I love research. It’s one of my favorite parts of library work. To be honest, I think many librarians are amateur sleuths at heart.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

VG: I have always loved reading mysteries of all types, including cozies. When I decided to switch gears in my writing career a year or so ago, my agent advised me to try writing in a genre I loved, so I chose cozy mysteries. They not only fit my reading preferences, but also (I think) my writing style.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

VG: When I started out I wrote YA Fantasy and Scifi (written as Vicki L. Weavil). I have a few books out under that name, but I am no longer writing in that genre. I love speculative fiction, but I think perhaps my writing style is better suited to the mystery genre.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

VG: The Blue Ridge Library Mystery series features thirty-something librarian Amy Webber, who becomes involved—along with some of her family and friends— in investigating crimes in her historic Virginia mountain town. Amy uses her research skills, wit, and insatiable curiosity to help solve murders, both historical and contemporary.

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

VG: Oh dear, that’s like asking a parent if they have a favorite child! I honestly love all my characters, even the murderous ones. Of course I like Amy, her Aunt Lydia, and her best friend, Sunny, and I suppose I must confess a bit of an author’s crush on dancer and choreographer Richard Muir. And I also have a fascination with the enigmatic art dealer, Kurt Kendrick. He’s so much fun to write!

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

VG: In terms of setting, yes. I grew up in a historic town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, so Taylorsford is based in part on the small towns in my home county. I also drew heavily on my experience as a librarian in both public and academic libraries.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

VG: I had published other books before this one, so I was already in the publication “game.” I guess my initial interest in trying to get any of my books published was simply to share them with readers. Having loved to read all my life, I really wanted to reach other readers with my writing.

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

VG: William Shakespeare, Dorothy Dunnett, C.S. Lewis, and John Crowley.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

VG: Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr, the latest book by John Crowley. He’s been one of my favorite authors since I read his Little, Big many years ago.

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

VG:I like gardening, traveling to discover new places, and cooking. I also enjoy music—listening and singing—and art of all kinds. I’m a film buff as well as a fan of theatre and dance Although I only have cats right now, I love most animals and would start up an animal rescue and refuge if I had the money and proper facilities.. Of course, I also love reading books—in almost any genre.

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

VG: Cheese, wine, fruit, and chocolate!

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

VG: Yes, there will definitely be two more books in the Blue Ridge series (hopefully more, but that depends on sales and other currently unknown factors). The second book is already written and has gone into production. It’s titled SHELVED UNDER MURDER and will be released by Crooked Lane Books in July 2018. I am now writing the third book in the series, which doesn’t have a title yet. It is tentatively scheduled for publication in Jan. or Feb. of 2019.

I am also currently developing a historical mystery series set in a 1920s farming community.

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

VG: I love being able to create characters, settings, and stories and bring so many of my thoughts and ideas to life. I’ve been an avid reader all of my life, so having the opportunity to write books and share them with other readers is truly a dream come true.


A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS by Victoria Gilbert
The First Blue Ridge Library Mystery

Taylordsford is a small Virginian town built on old families and secrets. Fleeing a disastrous breakup Amy Webber left the academic library of Clarion University and has come to live with her aunt and work as director for the town's public library. Although vowing to keep good looking artistic men at bay, Amy can't help but be intrigued by her neighbor's research, looking into an old town mystery. Instead of archival documents, however, they find the murdered body of an elderly patron. Who would want to kill the harmless woman? Was it a passing stranger? As Amy and Richard explore a mystery from the past they uncover secrets that may be deadly in the present.

A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS is a great start to a new series. Interesting, well developed characters inhabit the pages along with a current murder and a mystery from the past. Romance does play an integral part of the story, but I enjoy the developing relationship between Amy and Richard. It enriches the characters and leads us to learn more about them and their motivations by seeing their reactions to each other. 

I appreciate Amy's research skills, and even learned some new tricks myself and I loved the hint of the possibility of the paranormal. The mystery is well plotted and pairing the current murder with a mystery from the past, along with family secrets, provides an added depth. There's a lot going on in this first Blue Ridge Library mystery, but that adds to the interest and I look forward to the next book in the series.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Running Out of Time - A Visit from Dodie O'Dell & Review

I'm happy to welcome Dodie O'Dell to Cozy Up With Kathy today. You can find Dodie on the pages of the Dodie O'Dell Mystery series by Suzanne Trauth. RUNNING OUT OF TIME is the third book in the series.

     It’s winter in Etonville, New Jersey. Living down the Jersey Shore in the past had not completely prepared me for the ordeals of cold weather months: substantial snow, ice, cold, wind, sleet, more snow, freezing rain. And now I’m sneezing! My remedy? Just the usual. Aspirin, vitamin C, and a shot of whiskey. That last was my great aunt Maureen’s remedy for whatever ailed you. She usually came down with “something” once a week.
     I’ve been spending my free Sundays overseeing a baking class on steroids at the Windjammer restaurant, which I, Dodie O’Dell, manage. The latest production of the Etonville Little Theatre is Eton Town, an adaptation of the classic Our Town, set during the American Revolution and featuring the founding of the town. I’m still into creating theme food for every play the theatre produces and for this show we’re making early American desserts: Swamp Yankee applesauce cake, apple pie, mulled wine, hot cider. The bakers are Etonville folks who are having a good time peeling apples and slinging batter.
     But the baking class is over, we’ve cleaned up the Windjammer kitchen, the bakers have left, and it’s time to go home. I step outside the restaurant. Falling snow has sprinkled a light layer of powdery white stuff on all surfaces. I stick out my tongue to catch the moisture. Reminds me of afternoons I shared with my little brother Andy on those rare occasions when it snowed down the shore.
     My cell chirps. A text from Bill. Aka Etonville Chief of Police Thompson: Sorry about last night. We’d gotten to know each other during the past year when I’d assisted in the investigation of a couple of homicides. Okay, so I “investigated” on the sly and jeopardized our budding relationship. But Bill was still grateful for my detection skills and I still got all jittery when I saw that sandy-colored brush cut and former-NFL-running back build. We’d been dating for the last couple of months. Which included a New York Giants football game and Christmas Eve dinner at the Windjammer. And an aborted attempt to go sledding in the town park. At the last minute, Bill had had an emergency.
     I crank the engine of my red Metro, flip on the windshield wipers to clear a patch of window, and set off down Main Street. Slowly. Carefully. Between the ice and wind chill—which could last anywhere from three months to five months in New Jersey—I’m ready to flee to Florida where my parents reside. I could have moved there two years ago after Hurricane Sandy hit my Jersey Shore community and destroyed the restaurant where I worked, as well as my rented home. But I opted to go north across the Driscoll Bridge and ended up in Etonville, a stone’s throw from New York City, managing the Windjammer restaurant, soothing chef/owner Henry’s feathers on a daily basis, riding shotgun on the staff, and providing support for various theater ventures.
     By the time I pull into my driveway in the south end of town, a fresh coating of white covers tree branches, my small patch of front yard, and the walkway leading to my door.  I stamp the snow off my boots, fling my jacket over a kitchen chair, and debate. Should I call Bill and listen to him apologize? He’d had a work conflict last night…I got it. But it was the third time in the last few weeks that he’d had to bow out of a dinner date. I sneeze, pluck a Kleenex from a box on the kitchen table, and blow my nose. When my high school boyfriend dumped me for my best friend two weeks before the prom, my great aunt Maureen said: Dorothy dear, life is messy but love is messier. As usual she’d nailed it. Tonight, I had to be content with a mystery novel and hot-buttered rum. I’d leave the mess for tomorrow.

RUNNING OUT OF TIME by Suzanne Trauth
The Third Dodie O'Dell Mystery

Dodie O'Dell is back, this time supplying Revolutionary war fare for the Etonville Little Theatre's production of Eton Town, Walter's version of Our Town. As usual, the ELT is having its share of problems, from the 3 hour long run time to the turntable on stage that doesn't always want to turn. No one expects a smooth opening night-but no one expected a murdered body found on stage cancelling the performance. Now a timid young member of the troupe has disappeared, fleeing the scene of the crime with bloodied hands. Dodie believes she must be innocent, but all signs, and her behavior, point to guilt. Will Dodie go against the chief of police, who she is dating, and his new PI right hand man? Things get ever more dangerous for Dodie as she tries to find Sally and the truth. 
I always enjoy visiting the Windjammer and seeing what trouble the Etonville Little Theatre is cooking up. The antics of the actors and stage manager brings me back to the days when I was involved in theatre. The people involved in the ELT are over the top, but it's completely believable because, as over the top as they are, that's exactly what it's really like in the world of theatre. 

As enjoyable as it was reading this third outing, I had issues with Dodie's behavior. I consider Dodie an intelligent woman, but her actions were downright stupid through most of this book. True, those actions kept the story going, and some things could be overlooked, but when a truly serious thing happened to her she didn't even tell the police...when she's dating the Chief! I hope that future books will have Dodie revert to her intelligent self.

Despite my disbelief at what Dodie did...and didn't do, I still enjoyed the book as a whole. It was well paced with action buffered by daily life in the restaurant and responsibilities of the theatre.