I'm happy to welcome Jennifer S. Alderson back to Cozy Up With Kathy. Jennifer writes the Carmen de Luca Art Sleuth Mystery series. COLLECTING CAN BE MURDER Is the first book in the series and was released last month.
Kathy: You start a new series with COLLECTING CAN BE MURDER. What made you decide to add something new?
JSA: After finishing book nine of my second mystery series, I decided to try start writing a new art-focused mystery series that would be, qua setting and feel, a mashup of Antiques Roadshow and the Thomas Crown Affair. The idea of combining those high- and low-brow worlds fascinated me!
The lead character, Carmen De Luca, is an art sleuth who hunts down priceless objects stolen from media-shy owners and cultural organizations located around the world. Her employer, The Rosewood Agency, is a private organization funded by a reclusive billionaire who encourages his operatives to do whatever is necessary to complete their assignment – even if it means breaking a few laws along the way. However, Carmen is not allowed to used weapons, but instead has to rely on her wits, martial arts skills, and a bottle of chloroform to get the job done.
I spend a lot of my free time in galleries and museums, and wanted to write about a character who was somehow involved with art and culture, yet did not work for a museum. The idea of making her an art sleuth was my way of giving Carmen a good reason to solve mysteries and travel for her work!
Kathy: Carmen De Luca is an art sleuth. Do you enjoy art? What's your favorite style?
JSA: Art is one of my great passions, and the reason why I moved to the Netherlands from Seattle, Washington in 2004! After studying art history in Amsterdam, I was lucky enough to work for several museums before the cultural sector imploded and I had difficulty finding another fulltime position. That’s when I decided to combine my love of writing and culture by writing four art mysteries (Zelda Richardson Mysteries), before moving on to the Travel Can Be Murder series. With the Carmen De Luca series, I’m going back to my first love, yet in a different way than the Zelda books. Whereas they are fast-paced and heavy on history, the De Luca novels are lighter in tone and the mysteries are a bit sillier.
I’m most partial to the bold colors and emotionally expressive, post-impressionistic art – Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Odilon Redon are great examples and some of my favorite artists. It’s fitting, I think, that I now live in the same city that houses one of the world’s best collections of post-impressionistic artwork – The Van Gogh Museum!
Kathy: In her first assignment Carmen and her partner have to recover a rare medieval prayer book from an eccentric collector. Why choose this unique treasure?
JSA: The impetus to actually write the first Carmen De Luca story was an invitation to write a short story for a charity anthology – and the theme was books! To choose which kind of book would be central to the mystery, I posted a poll on my Facebook page and in my newsletter and let my readers decide. They chose overwhelmingly for an illuminated manuscript because (according to their comments) they hadn’t read many mysteries featuring a medieval prayerbook.
I enjoyed writing the short story, but had to cut most of it to fit the length. It felt like a waste to throw away a perfectly good mystery, so I took the unabridged version and turned it into a full-length novel with a larger cast of characters and a different killer, than the short story.
Kathy: There have been many famous, or I should say infamous, art heists throughout the ages. Many still unsolved. Have any of these particularly intrigued you?
JSA: There are so many fascinating art heists, yet the Gardner Heist remains the most intriguing. Probably because there are so many twists and turns, as well as suspects who’ve admitted to the theft, only to later recount their testimony. In 1990 on Saint Patrick’s Day, thirteen masterpieces of art were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, yet to this day there is not one solid lead as to their whereabouts. I’m clearly not the only one who is captivated by this mystery, because there is a Netflix documentary about the thefts, as well as an ongoing podcast about the possible thieves and the missing paintings’ location called Empty Frames, as well as several other news specials.
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?
JSA: I’m somewhere in between. I do spend quite a bit of time writing out a detailed thirty- to fifty-page outline of the chapters and major plot twists before I begin flushing the chapters out. Yet inevitably, halfway through, I’ll change my mind about the ending, and often who the killer should be. As a result, I tend to spend the majority of my writing time working on the first half, and then speed write the new ending.
Kathy: Authors are required to do a lot of their own marketing, especially for a new release. What's your favorite part of marketing your work? What do you dislike about marketing?
JSA: It’s fun to interact with readers via Facebook and my newsletter. However, because the social media landscape is constantly evolving, I do tend to feel like there is always a new medium I should be learning about or getting involved with.
Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?
JSA: In Book Two – A STATUE TO DIE FOR – Carmen has to sleuth out who killed a washed-up Hollywood film director who has been murdered by a Maltese Falcon statue - and in a locked room, no less! Movie moguls, priceless props, and long-buried secrets make for a deadly combination in this delightful mystery that is sure to appeal to fans of cozy crime and amateur sleuth mysteries.
In Book Three – FORGERIES AND FATALITIES – Carmen is trying to figure out if a respectable gallery owner is involved in a forgery ring or not. Her investigation leads her into the shadowy world of art smuggling and the mafia!
The First Carmen de Luca Art Sleuth Mystery
Called back from retirement, art sleuth Carmen De Luca is on assignment, tasked with verifying the medieval prayer book owned by Harold Moreau is, in fact, stolen. Plans go awry when a bookshelf falls as Harold is showing off his collection to Carmen. When she regains consciousness she finds Harold dead and the prayer book gone. A raging storm prevents the arrival of the police as it also stops anyone from leaving. Someone at the villa must be the culprit, but who? Carmen will do what she can to recover the book and in doing so may solve a murder too.
I love the premise of the Carmen De Luca Art Sleuth Mystery series; tracking down stolen artwork so that it can be returned to the rightful owner. I also appreciate the fact that Carmen is a mature protagonist. I really enjoyed learning about the medieval prayer books and could easily visualize these little treasures.
Even though Carmen has a great backstory and the characters are interesting, I found them to be two dimensional. They never drew me in and I found that I didn't really care about any of them. I did, however, like Detective Nobel and felt his character had a lot of promise.
One thing really bothered me, something the author should have known or an editor should have caught. A song was described that was obviously Cat's in the Cradle. However, the author called it Cat's Cradle and said it was by Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens never wrote a song entitled Cat's Cradle (although he did have a compilation album by that title- but there is no song by that name on it). Harry Chapin wrote Cat's in the Cradle.
COLLECTING CAN BE MURDER brings great artwork and mystery together in this new series.
Collecting Can Be Murder (Carmen De Luca Art Sleuth Mysteries) by Jennifer S. Alderson
About Collecting Can Be Murder
Cozy Mystery 1st in Series
Setting - France
Traveling Life Press (May 31, 2023)
Approximately 250 Pages
Coming out of retirement can be deadly…
After tragedy struck three years earlier, art sleuth Carmen De Luca vowed to never work in the field again. But fifty is too young to fill her days with water aerobics and bingo, so when her former partner calls and begs for her help, Carmen gladly agrees.
Yet after their first assignment – the recovery of a rare medieval prayer book from an eccentric collector living in rural France – goes horribly wrong, Carmen ends up in the crosshairs of both the local police and a murderer!
With her target dead and the stolen book missing, she and her partner will have to pull out all of the stops to sleuth out the true killer’s identity – before their stay in France becomes permanent.
Introducing Carmen De Luca, an art sleuth with a nose for mystery and the job of locating valuable artwork stolen from museums around the world. If you love strong and resourceful heroines, puzzling mysteries, and a dash of art history, pick up Collecting Can Be Murder now!
Carmen De Luca Art Sleuth Mysteries: Book One: Collecting Can Be Murder Book Two: A Statue To Die For More adventures coming soon!
These mysteries contain no graphic violence, sex, or strong language.