I'm pleased to welcome Jen Pitts to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Jen writes the French Quarter Mystery series. THE KEY TO MURDER is the first book in the series and was released last year.
Kathy: In THE KEY TO MURDER Samantha Richardson follows a diary around the French Quarter of New Orleans. Do you keep a diary?
JP: I actually don’t keep a diary. I spend so much time writing fiction that I don’t write facts. Although I must admit I use some details from my own life in my books.
Kathy: Setting plays such an important role in a mystery and that is certainly the case in this book. New Orleans is almost a character unto herself. What draws you most to this city?
JP: On my first visit to the city twenty-five years ago, I fell in love. New Orleans is full of such unique neighborhoods, but I felt at home in the French Quarter. Walking down the streets, I admired the mix of the old and the new, the quiet spots juxtaposed with the party-like atmosphere. I loved the food rich with history and flavor; the musicians playing on street corners along with artists showcasing their work. Every time I visit, I find new people, places, food, music, and art to fall in love with.
Kathy: In the first French Quarter Mystery Samantha is hopeful she’ll discover about her past, as she was orphaned as a toddler due to a hurricane. Have you ever been in a hurricane or experienced other major weather events?
JP: The first time my husband and I went to New Orleans together was in September 2002. We were there for Hurricane Isidore. We had lunch at Redfish Grille and when we came out of the restaurant, we couldn’t see across the street because of the sheets of rain. Our hotel took care of us with dinner and extra towels for leaking windows and we slept through the storm. The next morning, we headed to the French Quarter where everything was open like nothing had happened.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
JP: The deep sense of community drew me in to cozy mysteries. I love that no matter if the community is a neighborhood or a small town, the relationships between the characters are important. I also like that most cozy mysteries are series, so I get to know the characters and see them grow.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
JP: Not right now. I have a few ideas for a few standalone mysteries, but I really enjoy writing cozies.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
JP: The French Quarter Mysteries finds Samantha Richardson learning about her new hometown while solving mysteries of the past and present. In the first book, THE KEY TO MURDER, Sammy is researching her past and following the clues in a strange diary. THE GATES TO THE AFTERLIFE finds Sammy settling into her new life. When one of her best friends is accused of murder, she needs to prove his innocence and stop a Voodoo ritual that has turned to murder. In book three, A DEADLY CHECK-IN, Sammy now has to prove her own innocence when her cousin is murdered in a haunted hotel.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
JP: I love them all, but I am fond of Sammy. I love her curiosity, her sense of humor, her love of coffee, and her loyalty to her friends.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
JP: My love of cozy mysteries and New Orleans was my inspiration. Since I don’t live in the city or solve mysteries in real life, I get to live there and solve mysteries in my books.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
JP: About two years ago, I joined a critique group. Besides my husband, no one else had read my work in progress, THE KEY TO MURDER. My nerves were on edge at our first meeting, but quickly subsided. Our group is supportive, but offers constructive criticism. When I finished my revisions, my fellow writers told me I was ready to either send it to agents or self-publish. I took their advice and published it on my own.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
JP: Agatha Christie is first on the list as she is still my inspiration as a mystery writer. I would also love to have Anne Rice join us to discuss New Orleans. I’d also love Julie Smith to come as I love her Skip Langdon and Talba Wallis series. Another idol of mine is Louise Penny. While I’m not a big fan of cold weather, I’d live in her town of Three Pines.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
JP: I’m reading the Dr. Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. I love reading books set in England and I’m fascinated by archeology. This series is a bit cozy, a bit police procedural, and definitely interesting.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
JP: Right now my hobbies are unpacking boxes. We just moved to a new home and unpacking never seems to end. But when I’m settled, I enjoy reading, watching mysteries, traveling, and spending time with my husband and two teenagers.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
JP: Coffee, coffee creamer, peanut butter and jelly.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
JP: I’m writing book four of The French Quarter Mysteries, BURY THE PAST. I have at least two more books planned. I’m researching for a new series that will also take place in New Orleans. It’s a paranormal cozy series.
Kathy: What’s your favorite thing about being an author?
JP: I love I get to create character, worlds, and stories that are my own. And I love connecting with other readers and writers who enjoy mysteries as much.
The First French Quarter Mystery
Turning 30 seemed an appropriate time to make a new start so Samantha Richardson packed her bags and moved to New Orleans. Renting an apartment in the Thibodeaux Mansion in the French Quarter, Sammy quickly makes friends with the other residents. She's discovered a unique book in her apartment, a diary that acts as part romance novel and part scavenger hunt. None of her new friends know anything about the book and all deny the unique gift left subsequently at her door. Deciding the book would be a great way to get to know her new city, Sammy starts following clues...until they lead her to a dead body. Is someone setting her up? Sammy is sure one of her new "friends" is lying, but who?
The first French Quarter Mystery lays the groundwork for a fascinating series. I loved the intricate detailing of this very special portion of a unique city. I felt I was walking the streets and discovering both the charm and danger of New Orleans. Sammy is a great character, equally strong and vulnerable. The other characters are just as interesting with deep backstories I hope we get to explore. Most everyone is troubled to a degree, some much more than others. A hint of romance, neighbors as family, and a sense of community deepen the attachment for both Sammy and readers alike.
The mystery was unique and unexpected, as were the bead bodies. There was more than one surprise which was refreshing and kept me quickly turning the pages.
THE KEY TO MURDER is an engaging trip through the French Quarter. Interesting characters, an intriguing diary, and the chance to start again make for a compelling read and a great start to a new series.
The Key to Murder: A New Orleans Cozy Mystery (The French Quarter Mysteries) by Jen Pitts
About A Key to Murder
Cozy Mystery 1st in Series
Publisher: Independently published (March 4, 2020)
Paperback: 282 pages
Samantha thought following a mysterious diary around the French Quarter of New Orleans would be a harmless way to learn about her new hometown until it became about murder.
As the newest resident of Thibodeaux Mansion, West Coast transplant Samantha is looking forward to starting her thirties in a new place. Drawn to New Orleans for its music, food and history, she's excited to start her future in this unique city. But Samantha is also hopeful she'll find her past since she was adopted from Louisiana after being orphaned in a hurricane as a toddler.
An anonymous diary, unusual key, and a distinctive doll are left in her furnished apartment and her mostly friendly neighbors all deny leaving the gifts. Samantha, now Sammy to her new friends, can't believe any of them could be a liar. When the diary leads her to a dead body, Sammy needs to find out what these clues mean and what the murderer is trying to tell her.
Although her best friends Sissy and Andrew are happy to help her with this mystery, her other friends aren't sure the murder and diary are about Sammy. Not wanting to lose her newfound friendships and possible love interest, Sammy decides she must uncover the answers on her own.
Sammy moved to New Orleans looking for a new future, but is it her past that found her first?
THE KEY TO MURDER is the first book in the The French Quarter Mysteries featuring West Coast transplant Samantha Richardson settling into her new hometown, New Orleans. Her neighborhood is full of music, food and history as well as interesting people. Join Sammy as she explores the Big Easy by solving the mysteries of the past and present in this new modern, cozy mystery series.
About Jen Pitts
Jen Pitts is a lifelong mystery reader who turned her obsession into writing cozy mysteries of her own. When she isn’t plotting fictional murder and mayhem, she’s chugging coffee, traveling, reading, and enjoying life with her children and husband in the Pacific Northwest.
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