I'm happy to welcome Maggie Blackburn to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Maggie pens the Beach Reads Mystery series. LITTLE BOOKSHOP OF MURDER is the first book in the series and was released today!
Kathy: In LITTLE BOOKSHOP OF MURDER we meet Summer Merriweather, a Shakespearean scholar. As a theatre major I studied the bard intensely in college. Are you a Shakespeare buff?
MB: I used to be, more so than I am now. I prefer going to the plays, rather than reading them. We have a world class Shakespeare theater in a neighboring town, The Blackfriar's Playhouse, and I love to attend performances there.
Kathy: If we were to find you reading on a beach, are we more apt to find you reading Shakespeare or one of Summer's mom's romance novels?
MB: These days I'm not interested in either. I'm mostly reading historical mysteries and biographies. but if I had to choose, I'd say romance. Maybe a historical romance. I quite like Joanna Bournis romances, and Susanna Kearsely.
Kathy: Summer and her aunt investigate with the help of a book club. Have you ever been part of a book club?
MB: Yes and I enjoyed every minute of it. But I had to give it up when I started writing a lot of fiction. I couldn't manage to read what someone else wanted me to read, regularly, and do the reading and writing I needed to do for my own work.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
MB: I like mysteries that delve into character and place. And I'm also a crafty person. so it felt like many of my interests were well represented by the genre. As I write more and more of them, I also see that I love the uplifting, entertaining aspect to them. Especially these days--we certainly need it.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
MB: Yes, I had a few clean romances out and plan to re-release them at some point. I also have a few cookbooks out and a historical, I also write straight up mystery--THE JEAN HARLOW BOMBSHELL, for example. I'm working on the second book in that series--THE AUDREY HEPBURN HEIST.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
MB: The Beach Read series involves a Shakespeare scholar's whose career is put on hold, as she tries to pick up the pieces from her mother's death, while stepping in to manage the bookstore.
The Buttermilk Creek Series is about a micro-dairy farm and cheesemaker and it's set in Shenandoah Springs. She's picking up the pieces of a broken relationship and plowing ahead with her dream to own the farm and cheese-making company.
The Cora Crafts Series is set in a fictional town in the mountains of Western North Carolina at a craft retreat. Each book focuses on a different retreat, craft, and murder.
The Cumberland Creek series is about a group of scrapbooking women who get together weekly to scrapbook, eat, drink, and solve murders.
The Classic Star Biography series is about a young writer with chronic Lyme's Disease, writing and solving misters in New York city.
The Victoria Town Novella Mystery series focuses of a young woman coming to town to help her aunt rung the B & B. She's been laid off from her computer gaming job and is trying to figure out what comes next, even as she solves murders in the quaint town.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
MB: No I really don't. Sorry!
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
MB: Yes, for the Beach Reads series, in particular. I went on a beach trip with a friend. No husband or kids. And it was magical. I remarked that the trip was perfect. All we needed was a bookstore on the beach and it would be heaven. The rest is history!
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
MB: I've always been a writer and publishing is the best way to share it.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
MB: I'm picking only the dead ones! Hard to choose! Shakespeare. (Of course!), Toni Morrison, Jane Austen, Daphne Du Maurier.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
MB: I'm currently reading ELIZA HAMILTON, A BIOGRAPHY.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
MB: I'm still a scrapbook/paper crafter. I've been getting into the slow stitch movement, which for me has been like collage with fabric. I love it.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
MB: Oatmeal. Almond milk. Coffee. Bananas.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
MB: Yes, I have plans, but nothing is contracted at this point.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
MB: I love creating stories. Always have.
The First Beach Reads Mystery
Called back from a research trip in England, Summer Merriweather has returned to her childhood home of St. Brigid's Island. Reeling after the sudden death of her mother, Summer can't understand why a healthy 64 year old woman should suddenly drop dead. While Beach Reads was her mother's life, Summer has nothing but disdain for the bookstore that sells romance novels and cozy mysteries. Hoping to settle her mother's estate, Summer wants to leave and get her career back on track. But when she finds threatening letters to her mom, telling her to sell her store, Summer believes her mother's unexpected death was actually murder.
Summer Merriweather has a lot of issues, least of which is the belief that her mother was murdered. A Shakespearean scholar who considers light and fun reads below her, she's having difficulty with the life of an academian. Summer tends to run away; she ran to England after a humiliating video went viral, just as she left her fiance at the altar years prior, and just as she wants to leave St. Brigid's Island. Her emotions spiral from sorrow to anger, which isn't completely unexpected in a grieving person, but all of these traits combined make her difficult to truly like as a person. While many of the supporting cast have interesting attributes, there is no depth of character. The exception is Mr. Darcy who is written with love and understanding. Readers can feel his emotions as he comes to grips with his loss.
I love the setting of the first Beach Reads mystery. Description of the boardwalk had me sniffing the sea and craving a hot dog and lemonade. Beach Reads is a gem of a bookstore that makes me long to get lost in its aisles. I also enjoyed the mystery. A subtle crime, if murder can ever be subtle, with lots of suspects provided interest and lots of speculation.
With a great premise LITTLE BOOKSHOP OF MURDER opens a store of possibilities. Interesting characters have room to grow and develop and I'm curious to see how they and their world evolve.
Little Bookshop of Murder: A Beach Reads Mystery by Maggie Blackburn
About Little Bookshop of Murder
Cozy Mystery 1st in Series
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (September 8, 2020)
A Shakespearean scholar inherits a beachside bookshop--and a murder mystery--in this delightful new cozy series for fans of Kate Carlisle and Ellery Adams.
Summer Merriweather's career as a Shakespeare professor hangs by a bookbinder's thread. Academic life at her Virginia university is a viper's pit, so Summer spends her summer in England, researching a scholarly paper that, with any luck, will finally get her published, impress the Dean, and save her job. But her English idyll ends when her mother, Hildy, shuffles off her mortal coil from an apparent heart attack.
Returning to Brigid's Island, NC, for the funeral, Summer is impatient to settle the estate, sell her mom's embarrassingly romance-themed bookstore, Beach Reads, and go home. But as she drops by Beach Reads, Summer finds threatening notes addressed to Hildy: "Sell the bookstore or die."
Clearly, something is rotten on Brigid's Island. What method is behind the madness? Was Hildy murdered? The police insist there's not enough evidence to launch a murder investigation. Instead, Summer and her Aunt Agatha screw their courage to the sticking place and start sleuthing, with the help of Hildy's beloved book club. But there are more suspects on Brigid's Island than are dreamt of in the Bard's darkest philosophizing. And if Summer can't find the villain, the town will be littered with a Shakespearean tragedy's worth of corpses--including her own.
About Maggie Blackburn
Maggie Blackburn is the author of the Cora Crafts mysteries and the Cumberland Creek mysteries under another pen name. Her books have been selected as finalists for an Agatha Award and a Daphne du Maurier Award and as a Top 10 Beach Reads by Woman's World. She has also been short-listed for the Virginia Library People's Choice Award. She is the mother of two young women who are off following their dreams in the music business. She currently lives in Waynesboro, VA, and works at the University of Virginia as a development associate.
Website - http://www.molliecoxbryan.com
Twitter - @molliecoxbryan