Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December Berkley Prime Crime Line-up

Here are some great new December releases from Berkley!!!

The Christmas Cookie Killer

Livia J. Washburn

Reprint - Originally published in Trade Paperback

Phyllis Newsom stands a good chance in the Christmas cookie contest with her snowflake-shaped lime sugar cookies. But Mrs. Simmons' gingerdoodles might give her a run for her money—until she's found strangled in a pile of cookies. With many on Santa's naughty suspect list, this case is a cookie Phyllis means to crumble...

(A Fresh-Baked Mystery #3)
Obsidian, November 2009
ISBN-10: 0451226666
ISBN-13: 9780451226662
272 pages Paperback (reprint)


Decked with Folly

Kate Kingsbury

Make room for murder with all the trimmings in the latest of the Pennyfoot Hotel Christmas mystery series.

It's the holiday season and the Pennyfoot staff is brimming with anticipation. The scents of the season overflow from the kitchen and the country club's halls are decorated with festive displays thanks to Cecily's dear friend Madeline. But when one of Cecily's candlesticks disappears, she realizes someone is lacking in Christmas spirit.

Petty thievery seems the least of Cecily's problems after she learns a former employee has been found dead in her duck pond. He hasn't worked at the Pennyfoot in years, but his ex-wife is still their head maid—and now she heads the list of suspects. And when Madeline has a vision of more misfortune to come, Cecily starts feeling more jinxed than jolly. Now a killer and a thief must be taken off the guest list in order to put the merry back into Christmas.

(A Special Pennyfoot Hotel Mystery)
Berkley Trade, November 2009
ISBN-10: 0425230015
ISBN-13: 9780425230015
304 pages Trade Size

Editor's Note: I have been meaning to check these Kate Kingsbury mysteries out for a while... this and the next are both Christmas mysteries!


Ringing In Murder

Kate Kingsbury

Originally published in Trade Paperback

This season, Cecily has a surprise for her guests: gorgeous Christmas crackers handmade for the Pennyfoot. But when a mysterious fire breaks out in an upstairs room, it kills the Christmas mood—and two guests. Now Cecily's dead-set on solving this mystery before another deadly present turns up.

(A Special Pennyfoot Hotel Mystery)
Berkley (Prime Crime), November 2009
ISBN-10: 0425231208
ISBN-13: 9780425231203
256 pages Paperback (reprint)


Mrs. Jeffries & the Yuletide Weddings

Emily Brightwell

Upper Edmonton Gardens looks forward to a jolly Christmas, until one humbug sings of murder—in Mrs. Jeffries's 26th mystery.

'Tis the week before Christmas, and all through the house, every creature is stirring...

But just as Inspector Witherspoon's staff prepares for the long-awaited wedding of Betsy and Smythe, a Yuletide murder falls in the Inspector's lap.

A middle-aged spinster has been killed in what her murderer hoped would look like a random crime. But the Inspector's investigation reveals a web of lies, intrigue, and long-buried secrets. With uncooperative witnesses, sulking relatives, and a second Christmas wedding, a simple investigation seems unlikely. And the household will have to put aside its holiday spirit to save the Inspector's reputation.

(A Victorian Mystery #26)
Berkley, November 2009
ISBN-10: 0425230465
ISBN-13: 9780425230466
272 pages Hardcover

**Editor's Note... Betty and Smythe are finally getting married? I'll have to read this one!! Great very fun series.

Have any of you read these, or any other by these authors? Do tell us about them! I have read several of the Mrs. Jeffries historical mysteries and they are light, entertaining and great fun. Not deep in any sense, but good solid murder mystery entertainment.

Friday, December 11, 2009

How to write a Holiday Mystery

*Editor's note: We have a special treat today. Maggie Sefton, author of Berkley Prime Crime's Knitting Mystery series is celebrating the paperback edition of her bestselling 'Fleece Navidad' and is here today to give us a little insight into writing the holiday-themed mystery. Please welcome her kindly and enjoy!!

by Maggie Sefton - Author of Fleece Navidad

When my publisher asked me to write a Holiday-themed mystery for my Knitting Mystery series, I knew I had a problem. The series, featuring 30-something corporate refugee, Kelly Flynn, is set in a college town in northern Colorado and has many scenes in Kelly’s favorite knitting shop where her friends gather around the knitting table to socialize, hash out problems, and work on their fiber projects. In the previous five books in the series, I deliberately used those “warm and fuzzy” scenes to allow Kelly to sort through all the information and clues she uncovers when she’s investigating a murder. “Sleuthing,” as her friends call it.

It should be pointed out that Kelly is not a cop, nor a private eye, nor a lawyer. She’s a CPA and has absolutely no business messing in murder. But---she can’t help herself. She can’t resist a puzzle. And solving a murder is an irresistible challenge. Kelly’s analytical mind goes on automatic. Having been a CPA myself, it really is almost automatic. We simply have to analyze a problem, weigh and measure, and—here’s the key—look for things that don’t belong.

Whether it’s on a balance sheet or in searching for clues, Kelly naturally picks up details that others do not, even police officers. That makes for a confrontational relationship between Kelly and the Fort Connor Chief of Detectives. Kelly’s convinced he’s never forgiven her for finding her aunt’s killer—the real killer—the one who strangled her aunt in her cozy cottage across from the knitting shop. Kelly proved the cops had the wrong guy in jail.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, I knew that many of the readers would be expecting more than the usual warm and fuzzies in this book simply because it’s set during the entire month of December. They would want “holiday” warm and fuzzies—scenes of hectic preparations, shopping, characters knitting mittens, and holiday parties. I even found the perfect holiday title for the book: FLEECE NAVIDAD.

The problem is I just can’t have the characters sitting around wrapping presents and drinking wassail. I have to kill someone. After all, that’s what I do. I kill people on paper for a living. So a body has to hit the floor. And my problem was how to insert that in the midst of all the holiday cheer.

I finally decided that I would “play off” the crime scene talk and Kelly’s sleuthing against the holiday cheer, deliberately putting them together in the same scenes. Warm and chilly. And with the help of some fascinating new characters who walked to center stage for this book, it was easy.

To me, it’s all about the characters, and these two people exhibited charming and attractive sides of their personalities as well as darker sides. And since both these women had opposing goals, they clashed. Accusations began to fly and scandals from the past came out. And I deliberately chose to have it all happen right there at the knitting table, crowded with shop regulars knitting charity hats, mittens for disadvantaged children, as well as holiday gifts. The normally congenial atmosphere disappears. People choose sides and argue. Loudly. In fact, it gets so acrimonious one afternoon that the normally-cheerful shop owner, Mimi, throws everyone out into the cold.

Add to that, the victim is a librarian. Gasp! How could I do that? Librarians are my favorite people. And to make it worse, Juliette, had found love for the first time. To think someone could run into her one night then drive away and leave Juliette to bleed and die alone in the dark. . . how heartless.

We novelists are a cruel lot. We kill all sorts of people—nice sweet people and nasty mean brutes. We do not discriminate. And Juliette was the perfect victim. Of course, the plot definitely thickens when police discover that her death was not accidental, but deliberate. Someone lay in wait for Juliette to appear that night in her beautiful Christmas cape.

Kelly has her hands full trying to unravel this puzzle. On top of that, Kelly tries to keep the peace between two spinster sisters who’re at odds with one another. The fractious arguments around the knitting table are taking their toll on relationships.

Before I knew it, there was plenty of contrast for the holiday warm and fuzzies. And just to make sure the temperature didn’t get too chilly, I allowed Kelly and Jennifer to get in touch with the holidays—up close and personal. They’re recruited to oversee the Saint Mark’s Catholic Church’s Christmas Eve Nativity Pageant, complete with a cast of surly thirteen-year olds. The original leader was poor Juliette, our librarian victim. So Kelly and Jennifer—the two lapsed Catholics in the group—take over the job.

They soon discover this project will require more than their usual organizational skills. Let’s put it this way--Joseph is wired into his iPod, the shepherds are texting, and Mary has a nose ring.
However you choose to celebrate the holidays, enjoy!

Maggie Sefton is the New York Times Bestselling author of the Knitting Mystery Series, published by Berkley Prime Crime and set in Colorado. The paperback edition of last year’s hardcover Barnes & Noble Bestseller, FLEECE NAVIDAD, was released November 3rd. It’s available in bookstores, specialty shops, and online. Visit her at her website: http://www.maggiesefton.com. Visit Maggie’s blogsite at http://www.cozychicksblog.com.

(Article previously published in Mystery Readers Journal).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mystery Miscellany

News Release - December 9th, 2009

Mystery Writers of America - Dorothy Gilman, author of the tremendously fun Mrs. Pollifax series, has been named this year's Grand Master, kind of a lifetime achievement award.

Read all about it!

Dorothy Gilman - Mystery Writers of America 2009 Grand Master!

Just a note to tell those of you who don't know about Berkley's Prime Crime webpage... have a look! I love how it's laid out. Just looking at some of the covers make me drool! You can search by sub-genre, which is nice. I love that they have categories for animal lovers, culinary, even hobbies! I want books for Christmas!!!

Berkley's Prime Crime books!

If you haven't already, sign up for the newsletter!

And remember to come back tomorrow for the wonderful piece on 'how to write a holiday mystery' by Maggie Sefton, author of the Knitting Mysteries!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Santa Clawed by Rita Mae Brown - Review

*Editor's Note: Welcome Ariel Heart once again and her review of a fun holiday-themed mystery. I have to say, I have read many of the Mrs. Murphy/Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries, and though I started reading them with some enthusiasm, I have not been able to finish the last couple I've tried, even one I received as a gift from someone who knows I love mysteries and cats! Ariel's review has made me reconsider, and I may try this one as, in addition to loving mysteries and cats, I love holiday themed books! Enjoy!!

Santa Clawed

Author: Rita Mae Brown

Copyright: Nov 2008 (Bantam); 288 pgs.

Series: #17 in Mrs. Murphy mysteries

Sensuality: N/A but adult themes

Mystery sub-genre: Cozy

Main Character: Harry Haristeen, former postmistress now farmer with her tiger-stripped cat Mrs. Murphy, gray cat Pewter and Corgi dog Tucker

Setting: Crozet, Virginia – Holiday season

Obtained book through: Library Find

If you love animal cozy mysteries, then the NY Times Best-selling Mrs. Murphy mysteries are a must. The series is dubbed after Mrs. Murphy, Harry’s tiger-stripped cat who runs the house. The books are even touted as being co-written by Sneaky Pie, Rita Mae’s cat so you get the full animal viewpoint during the stories.

Harry has recently married the local equine vet, Fair and is now a full time farmer. This installment is set during the holidays so eloquently portrayed by Miss Brown. Harry and her new hubby go tree shopping at The Brother’s of Love Tree Farm, only to find their perfect tree is already decorated with a dead body of a brother. Harry had gone to High School with the dead monk, Christopher Hewitt. She felt he was really turning his life around after being released from jail, and then his throat was slit and a Greek coin, an obol, placed in his mouth. Harry is rather shaken by the murder and begins investigating, again aided by her three pets. Soon, Brother Christopher is not the only murder victim – all with their throats slit and an obol in their mouths - and the usually bright holidays have a fearful pall fall over the town.

This story is a wonderful read, the characterization is finely done and the town richly brought to life with its myriad delightful characters. Rita Mae’s characteristic animal viewpoints are spot on and often laugh-out-loud funny. You actually start to wonder if Rita Mae doesn’t actually hear her animals for real to be able to write them so convincingly. The story is character driven and yet sports a solid mystery plot with a few surprises along the way. There is not one area I could think of that could be done better. Don’t let the multiple deaths deceive you, this book will still put you in a bright holiday mood. This is one of the best cozy mysteries around and I highly recommend it.

As Harry Haristeen walked across the large quad to the great hall, her two cats and corgi behind her, she wondered if people today could build as securely as our forefathers did. Seemed like things were built to fall apart. Grateful that she lived in an old farmhouse built about the same time as the church, she paused on her way to the work party long enough to make a snowball and throw it up in the air.

Tucker, the corgi, jumped up to catch it. As she did, the snowball chilled her teeth, so she dropped it.

“Dumb!” Pewter, the portly gray cat, laughed.

"I knew it would do that, but if she throws a ball, I have to catch it. That’s my job,” Tucker defended herself.

Harry decided to sprint the last two hundred yards to warm up.

The tiger cat, Mrs. Murphy, shot past her. The shoveled walkway was covered with inches of fresh snow but easily negotiable.

Pewter, hating to be outdone, couldn’t get around Harry so she leapt onto the snow, where she promptly sank.

Tucker, trotting on the path, called out, “Dumb.”…

Upon entering the great hall, Harry inhaled the fragrance of oak burning in the two fireplaces, one at either end. The aroma of a well-tended fire added to winter’s allure. Harry loved all the seasons. Winter’s purity appealed to her. She loved being able to see the spine of the land, loved popping into a friend’s house for hot chocolate or serving the same. Born and raised here, she was buoyed up by close friendships. People might feel alienated in big cities, but she couldn’t imagine that emotion. Tied to the land, the people and animals that inhabited it, Harry knew she was a lucky soul.

I highly recommend this book. It has a good balance and is well written providing suspense, tens

ion, humor and even the holiday spirit in one package. By the end of the book, you will feel as though you have actually spent time in the small town of Crozet and have gotten to know some wonderful people.

Five out of Five Cozy Armchairs!

About the reviewer:

A.F. Heart


Ms. Heart is a Colorado gal who does not like snow but loves the low bug population. She has been told she was an odd child for playing Cleopatra with her Barbies and dressing up her poodle. She is taking that active imagination and writing her first novel. She shares her writing progress (and much more) on her blog “Mysteries and My Musings.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's That Time of Year

If you actually sang the title of this entry, then you are in full-blown holiday mode, and so am I! Oh, I still have work to do... lots and lots of work. But I'm in the spirit.

And whatever you celebrate, whether it be:

Hanukkah - Begins sundown, Friday, December 11th thru the next 8 days.

Islamic New Year - December 18th

First Day of Winter - December 21st.

Christmas - December 25th

Kwanzaa - December 26th, thru January 1st

New Year's Eve - December 31st

I hope you enjoy the season, whatever it means to you.

And in that spirit, tomorrow I have a review of a Christmas-themed mystery - Santa Clawed by Rita Mae Brown, and Friday, a special treat, an article on writing the holiday-themed mystery by Maggie Sefton, author of the New York times bestselling Knitting Mysteries!

Enjoy all, and don't drink too much eggnog!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Q&A with Sue Ann Jaffarian - Part 2

*Welcome, readers, to Part 2 of Sue Ann Jaffarian's Q&A with Cozy Murder Mysteries. Let's get right down to business!

CMM - You have a great quote from Camryn Manheim (love her on Ghost Whisperer) about your Odelia Grey books: "I wish I'd had Odelia Grey as my paralegal when I was on The Practice. Gutsy, smart, and loveable, she is the perfect take-no-prisoners heroine for today's woman." Camryn Manheim How did that come about? Did you approach her, or do you know her?

SAJ - I have not had the pleasure of meeting Camryn Manheim personally. My dream was to get a blurb from her, so I hunted down her contact information and asked her if she’d do it. She was so gracious to consent and gave me such a fabulous blurb.

CMM - Reviews are a mixed blessing for most authors; we love the good ones, hate the bad ones, and know they are just one person’s opinion. How do you deal with negative reviews? Do you even read reviews?

SAJ - I read all reviews, even reader reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Of course, I rejoice in the good ones, but I do not let the bad ones bother me. As you said, they are just one person’s opinion, and the good ones definitely outweigh the negative reviews. There have been many books I haven’t enjoyed that others have raved about, so I understand that my books may be subject to similar opposing views. It’s all a matter of personal taste.

One thing, though, I really wish readers would think twice before posting really tacky and/or hateful reviews anywhere on any book. If you don’t like a book, say so and say why in an intelligent, well-thought out manner. It doesn’t help anyone when reviewers think they’re being cute by being vicious. Those folks have no idea what goes into producing a book. If they did, they would use better judgment.

You do a lot of personal appearances. Have you had any funny/touching/interesting encounters with readers?

SAJ - My readers ROCK! I can’t begin to tell you the e-mails, snail mail, even gifts I’ve received from readers from all over. But I think the funniest encounter was when I was waiting in a line at a book conference and a reader tried to pitch me my own book. Seriously! I didn’t have my name tag on and she obviously thought that I, as a fat woman of a certain age, should read the Odelia Grey novels. She went on and on about how much I’d enjoy the books until someone pointed out to her who I was. She just about died of embarrassment. Then we laughed and hugged. I’ve run into her since and we still laugh over it.

On the touching side, I get a lot of e-mails from readers who tell me that having such a positive plus-size heroine makes them feel better about themselves. That’s golden.

CMM - As a paralegal yourself, do real life stories ever make a veiled appearance in your novels?

SAJ - No, never. What I do as a paralegal would put my readers to sleep in a nano-second. Trust me. I do infuse some of the details of my job into Odelia’s day at the office, but never base any of the plots on cases or matters I’ve been involved with in my position as a paralegal. What I make up is soooooo much more entertaining. Besides, a lot of folks at my office read my books, including many of the attorneys. It wouldn’t do for them to see office issues in the books, even if veiled over.

CMM - What do you read? Any favorite authors?

SAJ - I have so many favorite authors and so little time to read. I try not to read books similar to my own, especially while deep into a manuscript. Favorites include Walter Mosley, Diana Gabaldon, Naomi Hirahara, Jan Burke, John Morgan Wilson, Eric Stone, Terry McMillan, Amy Tan, John Irving, Lisa Scottline, Lee Child. (How much space do we have?) And I love discovering new authors.

CMM - Thank you so much, Sue Ann, for taking this time to be with us at Cozy Murder Mysteries.

SAJ - THANK YOU!!! And if any of your readers would like to sign up for my e-mail newsletter, Hotflashes, they should drop me an e-mail with Add Me in the subject line. My e-mail address is sue@sueannjaffarian.com.

Find Sue Ann at: http://www.sueannjaffarian.com/

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Q&A with Sue Ann Jaffarian - Part 1

*Welcome, Cozy Murder Mysteries readers, to a wonderful Q&A with cozy murder mystery author Sue Ann Jaffarian, author of the Odelia Grey and Ghost of Granny Apples mystery series... as well as a new one she will announce here. Make her welcome, and after Part 2, on Friday, I'll provide an email link to sign up for her newsletter!

CMM - First, Sue Ann, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I very much appreciate it!

Tell us a little about your Odelia Grey and Ghost of Granny Apples series?

Odelia Grey is a plus size, middle-aged paralegal living and working in Newport Beach, CA, with a penchant for getting into trouble. She quirky, funny, and often cranky with a very big heart. No matter how often she says she’ll never get involved with another murder, she just can’t say no when people ask for her help. She’s also surrounded by a colorful and nutty cast of characters that include her husband Greg, who is in a wheelchair, best friends Zee and Seth Washington, and boss Mike Steele, an arrogant SOB of an attorney. They have dubbed her “the corpse magnet” but love sticking their noses into trouble right along with Odelia. Rounding out the group is detective Dev Frye who is constantly trying to keep Odelia and her posse out of trouble. The 5th Odelia Grey novel, Corpse on the Cob, will be out February 2010.

The Ghost of Granny Apples mysteries feature the living/dead sleuthing duo of Emma Whitecastle, a divorced mom living in Pasadena who has recently discovered she can hear and see ghosts, and Granny Apples, the 100+ year old pioneer ghost of Emma’s cantankerous great-great-great grandmother. In the first book in the series, Ghost a la Mode, Emma meets Granny for the first time, and sets out to prove that Granny did not kill her husband, for which Granny was hanged. Most of Ghost a la Mode takes place in the town of Julian, CA, a real former gold rush town in Southern California. In subsequent books, Granny and Emma look into the long-forgotten murders of other ghosts. You might say The Ghost of Granny Apples mystery series is a cross between Ghost Whisperer/Cold Case/Topper.

Ghost a la Mode was released September 2009 and the 2nd book in the series will be out September 2010. Unfortunately, the title for book #2 is still up in the air with my publisher, but it opens on Catalina Island.

And the big news is I am working on a third mystery series. It is scheduled for release in the fall of 2011 and will involve the sleuthing team of Doug and Dodi Dedham, a retired couple who just happen to be vampires. The working title for this book is I Could Bite You Forever.

CMM - How do you create characters that can/will sustain a series of books? Do you know everything about them going in, or does that come bit by bit as you write the books?

It’s a combination of knowing and learning as you go. To sustain a series, the characters have to come alive on the page, both the good guys and the bad guys, and grow with each book. Unless, of course, you kill them off! I usually start with an idea for a character and jot down a few paragraphs about their back story that include their age, physical appearance, occupation, education level, family background, specific quirks, and general outlook on life. After the foundation is set and I’m weaving them into the book, they start talking to me and I learn who they really are, warts and all. As I discover new things about the characters, I update my character list so I have it as a reference for later books. As nutty as it sounds, the characters do talk to me, and they are stubborn and won’t always behave as I’d like, but I’ve learned that if I let them lead, the book is the better for it.

CMM - I just love your writing advice, “Don't let anyone, I mean anyone, pee on your parade!” Any other words of wisdom for would-be writers?

Keep your butt in the chair and keep plugging. Writing takes a lot of persistence and commitment, and going through the publishing process requires a lot of patience. Don’t be discouraged, but also be realistic. If you have dreams of making it big with your first novel, you will be very disappointed. It’s a tough business and it takes time and several successful books under your belt to establish a solid writing career. Also, be open to criticism. Know that when agents or editors are giving you advice on your work, it’s to help you, not to hurt you. A writer who cannot take constructive criticism of his/her work is doomed.

CMM - Do you have a favorite place to write: office, library, under the stars? Under the stairs?

My best place to write is at my desk at home. It’s very messy and usually has a cat draped across it. The other cat likes to sleep on my feet while I work. It’s not fancy and doesn’t come with designer coffee, but I can work in my jammies and clean my bathroom or vacuum during breaks in the writing. When on the road, I travel with an Alpha Smart, a portable word processor. It’s very lightweight and low-tech and I love it. I can work anywhere with it without needing to plug it in or worry about the batteries going dead. It’s perfect for writing on long plane rides. But I find when I try to work anywhere but at home, my attention wanders too much and I’m not as productive.

CMM - You have created a plus-sized heroine for your Odelia Grey series; how does her size impact how she sees/experiences the world? Are you plus-sized? BTW, One thing that’s always irritated me is that people perceive plus-sized people as being not only unfit, but lazy. Is Odelia intended to combat the image, or is being plus-sized just one small aspect to her character?

I am a fat, middle-aged paralegal just like Odelia, but without the arrogant boss (mine’s lovely) and a nose for corpses. And, yes, being big does influence how Odelia sees the world as she has been molded by her experiences, both positive and negative, as we all are. In the first Odelia Grey novel, the reader is introduced to an Odelia who hasn’t been beaten down by the negativity towards her size, but isn’t as self-assured as she is in later books. As the story in Too Big To Miss develops, we see her gain confidence and step up to take her place in the world, but with no apologies. I didn’t create Odelia to combat the negative image of fat people, but to shine a light on the positive. And, as the books go on, there is less of a need for Odelia to prove herself in all her plus size glory, and the people around her (and the readers) accept her for who she is – bright, funny and accomplished. And isn’t that really what we all want?

*Editor's note... That's all for now, but Part 2 of Sue Ann's wonderful Q and A is coming up on Friday! Check back!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Coming soon...

Just a note to tell you that the wonderful and gracious Sue Ann Jaffarian has kindly answered many Qs with fabulous As, So come one back tomorrow for Part 1 of Cozy Murder Mysteries' Q&A with Sue Ann Jaffarian, author of the wonderful Odelia Grey and new Granny Apples mystery series.

Don't miss it!