Today I’m happy to be bringing you another Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour. This time, I’m featuring Murder at the River Bend Retirement Resort by Stan Schatt. For the most part, I really enjoyed this book.
When a very disagreeable resident of the exclusive River Bend Retirement Resort is murdered, bestselling mystery writer Miriam Lipsky has to find the real killer to save her dear friend from prison. She finds the retirement home seethes with intrigue, passion, and jealousy. To make matters worse, it’s hard to distinguish what residents actually saw from what they imagined.
Miriam finds she has to search for the killer while juggling an autistic grandson, a divorced daughter with a tendency to choose the wrong man, her best friend’s overly friendly husband, and a stalker who leaves her more and more threatening notes. To make matters worse, her rabbi who won’t take no for an answer when it comes to fixing her up.
Miriam, a widow after a disastrous marriage, has given up on love. Just when she is sure that part of her life is over, someone new appears from a very unexpected place.
Murder at the River Bend Retirement Resort is a cozy mystery with a sleuth who has to learn on the job. Despite her best intentions, Miriam makes mistake after mistake and yet moves ever closer to discovering a cold-blooded killer who has no remorse.
For the most part, I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun read.
I enjoyed our two major characters, Miriam and the sheriff. They play well off of each other and it was a change to have a sheriff who was okay with the amateur talking to people and trying to gather clues. That was a refreshing change. It was nice not to have the sheriff/police chief at odds with the amateur detective.
The plot line was good, but I did feel that it bogged down a little in the middle. I felt as tho’ there were places where the subplot got in the way of the main story. That’s why I only rated it a 4 star book.
It was still a fun book to read and I’ll read more in the series as I really like Miriam and Sheriff Rhodes.
About the Author
Stan is the author of over 40 books including the Frankie and Josh mysteries. He has published books on career changing, technology, and writers that include Michael Connelly and Daniel Silva.
Thanks for joining me today on this latest Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour. If you wish to visit other stops on the tour, please click on the banner below. That will take you to the main tour page where you can find a list of participants!
Today, I’m happy to bring you a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours tour for Body on Baker Street by Vicki Delany. We’ll start off with a guest post from Ms. Delany and then my review and purchase links will be after that.
Creating a Whole New Town
By Vicki Delany
Some books are set in real places. My Lighthouse Library series written under the pen name of Eva Gates is set not just in a real town, but in a specific, real-life building. The Bodie Island Lighthouse near Nags Head, North Carolina. You can visit it yourself, have a look around, go inside the lighthouse, even climb the spiral iron staircase 200 steps to the top. It’s all real.
Except it doesn’t contain a library, offices, meeting rooms, and certainly not an apartment on the 4th floor. Those I added myself.
But sometimes a real place won’t do, and then the imagination comes in. For the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series, I needed a street called Baker Street, and a town with a name that relates to London or to England. I wanted it to be in New England, and I wanted a tourist destination, which is always convenient for providing a steady stream of victims and suspects.
So I created West London, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, and named the main shopping street Baker Street. At 222 Baker Street, I put the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop, and next door at number 220, I opened Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room.
I put my town on a peninsula with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Nantucket Sound on the other, to make it a popular tourist spot and to provide the books with lots of atmosphere.
Now that I had my store, I had to stock it. Books mostly, Conan Doyle originals, modern pastiche novels, non-fiction to do with Conan Doyle and his life and times and contemporaries, a gaslight shelf full of mysteries set in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. And merchandise of course, anything and everything to do with the Great Detective and his imitators, from posters and DVDs to tea cups and sewing thimbles. Next door at Mrs. Hudson’s they got busy making scones, sandwiches, and small pastries and serving afternoon tea.
Now that I had my town and my shops, it was time to populate it. Gemma Doyle is a thirty-something Englishwoman, come to Cape Cod to manage her great uncle’s store. She is smart, highly perceptive, has a great memory (for things she wants to remember) and is occasionally lacking in some of the social graces. Her best friend Jayne Wilson owns and operates the tea room. As Gemma pokes her nose in murder cases, Jayne is always loyal but often confused. We have not one, but two, handsome men. Rare book dealer Grant Thompson and Detective Ryan Ashburton. Ryan and Gemma were once in a relationship, but he found it hard to be with a woman who always seemed to know what he was thinking. More cops, dedicated Sherlockians, an intrepid newspaper reporter, fellow shop-owners, and Great Uncle Arthur who never seems to be at home, round out the cast.
The joy of writing cozies, I have found, is the pure fun in it. I’ve had great fun creating the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium and the people of West London, and I hope you enjoy reading about their adventures.
Thank you, Ms. Delany for providing a guest post for my blog today! It was interesting reading about your thought processes behind creating the town.
Body on Baker Street is the second book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series. While it’s definitely possible to read this as a stand-alone book, I highly recommend reading the first book, Elementary, She Read as it’s a great start to the series!
I enjoyed this latest installment of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series.
Gemma is a fascinating, yet sometimes annoying character, much like Sherlock Holmes himself. She’s well-rounded and complex, but sometimes her mannerisms are just a little too over the top for me. I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but there’s a particular spot in this book that I wanted to give Gemma a “Gibbs-slap” (from NCIS for you non-tv watchers) to the back of the head to try to get her common sense going again before she attempted something totally idiotic!
I love the side characters too. Jayne and Ryan are wonderful. I’m liking Ashleigh more and more as each book goes on. I even like Louise more and more as the series goes on.
The setting descriptions are always well-done. I feel like there’s enough for us to be able to imagine the setting in our mind, but not so much that we’re overwhelmed as readers. That’s a hard balance to find, but I think Ms. Delany does it well in this book.
The plot moves along well. I had no idea who the villain was until he/she was revealed. As Gemma explained her logic behind her deduction, I could see the way the clues lined up, but the villain definitely wasn’t on my radar before that.
All in all, it was a good book. It didn’t have that pizzazz that I look for in a 5-star book and Gemma’s stupidity in some things caused me to give it a 4, but I still recommend it to cozy mystery lovers!
Thanks for stopping by today! If you wish to visit other stops along the tour, please click the banner below and that will take you to the main tour page with a list of participants.
Today, I’m happy to be bringing you a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for A Christmas Peril, the first in a new series by J.A. Hennrikus. There will also be an interview with the author after my review!
When Edwina “Sully” Sullivan’s life imploded, she left behind her job on the police force and her unfaithful husband to start a new life as the general manager of her hometown theater, the Cliffside Theater Company. For five years, she focused on budgets instead of crimes and kept the Cliffside running alongside its mercurial artistic director.
But when her best friend is arrested for killing his father, the rich and powerful Peter Whitehall, no one is looking for another suspect. So, in between keeping A Christmas Carol on budget and Scrooge sober, Sully dusts off her investigative skills to find a killer. Her two lives collide when her ex-husband gets on the suspect list and she’s forced to confront her past in order to save her present.
This was an absolutely delightful book! It didn’t quite have the pizzazz I look for to push it up to a 5-star rating, it is a solid 4.5 in my opinion.
The characters in this series are great. There was only once where the main character did something absolutely stupid and unsafe. The rest of the time she was well-behaved. Obviously there are some risks in trying to solve a mystery, it just bugs me when the heroine goes off and does stupid stuff or disregards all thoughts of safety. The side characters were fun too. Everyone was well-developed and complex.
The plot line moved along quite well. I’d say steady-fast. It wasn’t so fast that you couldn’t keep up, but it definitely moved along. I had absolutely no idea who the villain was until it was revealed. Honestly, he wasn’t even on my radar, so that was a great twist for me.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I look forward to the next installment whenever that might be!
Q1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day? Do you enjoy your day job?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I run an arts service organization for the New England theater community called StageSource (www.StageSource.org). I’ve worked in arts management for my entire career, and really love what I do. The work I am doing now is particularly rewarding, because it is a behind the scenes organization that supports the entire community.
I also teach arts management classes, which I also enjoy. It is a challenge keeping everything in the air, but worth it.
Q2: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I really, really try to carve out time every day, but that isn’t always possible. Usually I do marathon days on the weekends. When I write, I try and get a scene done, so the word count can vary. I need background noise while I write. I usually have a show on that I’ve seen before, so I don’t pay attention but the voices are with me. MIDSOMER MURDERS is my current writing companion.
Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reigns” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I am a plotter. A serious plotter. I start with characters, and an idea for the overall story. Then I write it down, and keep writing down the barebones until there is a frame for the entire story. Then I write it all down on plot cards, and use dramatic structure to make sure it will work.
Do characters hijack my stories? Yes, and I love that. I have characters that were supposed to be in one book, and they end up being series regulars. If a character hijacks the story too much, I make a note of it. That character obviously wants their own story, and isn’t good about sharing.
Q4: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Years ago I joined Sisters In Crime, and that made all the difference in my writing life. Not only did I meet people who understood my journey, I took classes to hone my craft, went to conferences to build my network, and made friends. Wonderful friends, including my fellow Wicked Cozy Authors (WickedCozyAuthors.com): Barbara Ross, Sherry Harris, Liz Mugavero aka Cate Conte, Jessica Estaveo aka Jessie Crockett aka Jessica Ellicott, and Edith Maxwell aka Maddie Day.
A CHRISTMAS PERIL was the first book I tried to sell. I’d written other books, but they are in drawers, and they will stay there. I got lovely rejections for A CHRISTMAS PERIL, but didn’t find an agent or a publisher. Then I was offered the opportunity to write the Clock Shop Mystery series as Julianne Holmes. The idea came from an editor, and I “auditioned” to write the series. The third book, CHIME AND PUNISHMENT, just came out. With that track record, I wrote a proposal for A CHRISTMAS PERIL, and very happily for me, Midnight Ink bought the series. Proving the adage, dreams do come true, but sometimes the path isn’t a straight one.
Q5: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I plot very heavily, and that helps me with a fairly polished first draft. I do a read through, and then send it out to my first reader, Jason Allen-Forrest. He gets it back to me with notes. Then I do at least two more deep edits on the book
Usually, I have been in a writing loop where one draft bleeds into another. For the manuscript I just turned in, I gave it a chance to “rest”, and that made all the difference. I am trying to incorporate more rest periods in my writing, which is tough given that I write two books a year.
Q6:A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Working in theater has been a gift to me for regarding characters. Every actor will tell you that they have to find something redeeming about their characters in order to play them. Villains don’t think that they are villains.
In mysteries, villains are driven to commit a crime, and usually they can justify that. I will confess, when I first wrote A CHRISTMAS PERIL I had another villain in mind, but after I worked on it for a while I realized I had the wrong killer.
Most of my characters, including my villains, have parts of people I know in them. The villains? I’ll never tell.
Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Between borrowing names and creating characters, there is a lot of my real life that shows up in my fiction. Happily, so far, it has worked out. I am also very fortunate in that I know and work with a lot of people, so there is a lot to draw from. Usually, it is a quirk, or a trait, or an experience that I borrow.
I was once in a very volatile meeting, and I kept my cool throughout. A colleague followed me into my office, and demanded to know how I always kept so calm. I told her that I plotted a murder during the meeting, and that helped. Then I smiled, so she thought I was kidding. I wasn’t, of course.
Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: What an interesting question! I think about that. I have friends who write historical fiction, and I applaud them their research and attention to detail. I don’t think I could do it.
I do think about non-fiction, and some of the extraordinary women who we don’t know enough about. I’m not sure I would write about a specific woman as much as I would write about a time. We are coming up to the centennial of white women getting the right to vote in the United States. (It took women of color longer.) That subject fascinates me.
Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I am on a summer reading binge of Louise Penny, and I am enjoying it tremendously. I had never read her before, so I have catching up to do!
Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: My life or my writing? My writing has been influenced by Agatha Christie, Elizabeth Peters, Dorothy Sayers, Elizabeth George and others. Specific books? If you could see my triple shelved bookshelves, you’d know I can’t answer that question, at least not easily!
Q11: If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I would spend the day with Sully. We’d go to the Beef and Ale, have burgers and fries, and a good local brew. I hope we’d have charming actors like Steward Tracy joining us. Then we’d go back over, and watch rehearsal for a while. We’d end up back at her carriage house, drinking wine and talking about the show.
Q12: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Again, my theater life helps me with this a bit. I don’t seek reviews out. If I happen upon one, I may read it, but I likely won’t. Reviews are useful when they are constructive, but “like” or “don’t like” are matters of opinion. The reviews that matter to me are the reviews I get from my editors, and folks who read my manuscripts, because I can still change the work. Once it is published, there’s nothing I can do.
The only way I engage with reviewers is to thank them. It is a lot of work, and a service to authors and readers.
A huge thank you to J.A. Hennrikus for being willing to answer my questions! Thanks for joining me today on the latest stop of the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for A Christmas Peril by J.A. Hennrikus. If you wish to visit other sites on the tour, please click on the banner below. It will take you to the main tour page where you will find a list of participants and links to their blogs.
Today I’m bringing you the latest stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for A Knit Before Dying by Sadie Hartwell. It’s the second in the Tangled Web Mystery series, but it was the first one I’ve read. It was a fun read and easy to read as a stand-alone.
Shop owner Josie Blair is finally settling into the pace of living in Dorset Falls, Connecticut. Between running Miss Marple Knits, jump starting a blog, and handcrafting items with the help of her knitting pals, Josie’s too preoccupied to worry about her past in New York. And thanks to Lyndon and Harry, the owners of the brand-new antique shop next door, she has another project in her midst—repurposing a box of vintage crocheted doilies adorned with the most curious needlework . . .
But before Josie can formally welcome her neighbors, she discovers Lyndon on the floor of his shop stabbed to death by a rusty old pair of sheep shears. Police have pinned Harry as the killer, but Josie isn’t so sure. Now, she’s lacing up for another homicide investigation—and no eyelet or stitch can go unexamined, lest she herself becomes ensnared in the criminal’s deadly design . . .
This was a fun read. As I stated above, this is the first one in the series that I’ve read, even though it is the second book of the series. However, the author provided enough background information to make it possible to read this as a stand-alone without overdoing it for those who may have already read the first book.
I enjoyed our main characters. Josie seems pretty well-rounded with a good head on her shoulders. While she’s curious and she asks questions, she doesn’t seem to go looking for trouble (which, in my opinion, is a good thing). I also enjoyed Evelyn, Lorna, Helen, Mitch, and the rest of the supporting characters.
This is my first “fiber arts” cozy mystery and I enjoyed it. I felt that the author did a good job balancing out the inclusion of the knitting and the yarn shop without it being smothering for those (like myself) who are not into knitting or crocheting.
The mystery itself was interesting and had plenty of red herrings to keep you guessing. I didn’t see the final twist coming, tho’ given that there was still about 15% of the book left after the supposed climax, I knew something else was going to happen. I just didn’t know what!
The only real complaint that I have is that I would have liked it if we’d found out where the body of one of the victims had actually been buried. It’s alluded to, but we never really know for sure.
All in all tho’ it was a fun read and if the author publishes more in the series, I’m definitely up for reading them!
About the Author
Sadie Hartwell grew up near the Canadian border in northern New York State, where it’s cold, dark, and snowy almost half the year—a perfect environment for nurturing a simultaneous love of mystery fiction and needlework. She attended St. Lawrence University, graduating with a degree in history, and has worked as a waitress, handbag designer/manufacturer, paralegal, and copy editor before turning to writing full time. Now she gets to play with yarn and make up stories whenever she wants, and wishes everyone had a job as much fun as hers.
Thanks for joining me today on the latest stop of the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for A Knit Before Dying by Sadie Hartwell. If you wish to visit other stops on the tour, please click on the banner below. It will take you to the main tour page with the listing of all the stops!
Today I’m pleased to be bringing you the latest stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Vangie Vale & the Murdered Macaron by R.L. Syme. This was a delightful book to read and I enjoyed it. Stay tuned for an interview with the author after the review.
** Update 8/7/17 ** Yesterday I still didn’t feel well, so updates to the post had to wait until today, but I’m happy to report that we now have more formatting, purchase links, a link to the item on Goodreads, and links to the author’s sites, plus graphics to help break up the text. Thank you for being patient as I dealt with my migraine and the aftermath.
Small towns and gossip go together like flaky crust and sweet pastry cream. Between the police scanners, social media, and the senior center, it’s like a zombie apocalypse where they consume people’s secrets instead of living flesh. But Vangie Vale wants nothing more than to stay under the radar…especially the police radar.
So when her new bakery becomes linked to a murder investigation, nothing will stop the gossip mill from connecting her to the dead body. Can’t have that.
Forced back into the role of investigator, this newly-arrived-in-town part-time bakery owner has to become the very thing she hates–a nosy, small-town gossip–in order to clear her good name, and keep her face off the front page. But when a date-gone-wrong brings her face-to-face with the Sheriff, Vangie can’t ignore the fact that one of her macarons was involved in a murder. She has to find out who-dun-it.
As I said above, the book was a delightful read and I enjoyed it. I like our main character, Vangie. Sometimes she drove me a little nuts because she had a tendency to put herself into situations that held the possibility of danger without really thinking too much, but she didn’t do that often, so I didn’t get too annoyed by it.
I had mixed feelings about most of the supporting characters throughout the book. As we got more into the back story of the town and its people, I understood the characters motivations better and started to like some of them more, but there were enough red herrings in this book that I was suspicious of most of the townspeople and characters until the villain was actually revealed.
The plot line moved along at a steady and somewhat quick pace, though it wasn’t so quick that you couldn’t keep up. This was a fun read and I recommend it to anyone looking for a good whodunit.
First, let me say a huge thank you to R.L. Syme for being willing to answer my questions.
1) Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day? Do you enjoy your day job?
I don’t. I’m lucky enough to be able to write full-time. I love it. I used to have non-writing jobs, though, and I’ve done so many different jobs, mostly in the nonprofit arena. Theater, music, church, youth, restaurants… all great experiences for me to take from in the writing.
2) Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?
I write every day. Pretty much during the same hours every day, too, unless I’m on deadline, and then I’ll probably write more. I usually try to write a specific number of hours, rather than a word count. That way I know I’ll always get it done.
3) When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reigns” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?
With Vangie, I definitely feel like the story was hers, and she took over. It might be because I feel like I know her so well, I can predict what she does. I love knowing a character that well.
4) How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?
I definitely went through a lot of rejections first. I never thought about quitting before…I’ve thought about quitting after. Lol. It’s definitely hard work. But I love it. To keep myself hopeful, I try to focus on the characters and the story I’m telling. I want to see them get their justice or their happy ending.
5) In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?
Macaron went through three pretty major revisions. Normally, I don’t do that many, but this book has a lot of moving parts. I have two editors and several beta readers, and they are so helpful. I definitely set the book aside after every draft or every read-through. I like it to be fresh when I look at it.
6) A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?
The thing I love about mystery is that the villain is usually someone who has a really good reason for doing what they did. They just got desperate. I think that’s what I like so much. I get to sort of write normal people who just get carried away because they want something so much. I think that’s what makes mystery so interesting.
7) Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?
My characters are definitely fictional. I try to make them as real as I can, so I almost always have pieces of something familiar in them, but I never write a one-to-one correlation of a person. I don’t think it’s fair to try to tell someone’s story so completely like that. But I also want them to feel real.
8) If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?
That’s a great question. I’ve always wanted to do non-fiction, about TS Eliot. In fact, I worked on a fiction book about TS Eliot for a long time, but it never quite came to fruition. But there’s always a chance I will go back to that idea someday. I love TS Eliot.
9) What are some great books you’ve read recently?
I’m just finishing a re-read of Tana French’s The Likeness, and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve read all of her Dublin Murder Squad books, and I think they’re my favorite series out right now.
10) What books have influenced your life the most?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say The Bible, just because of my religious background. But in addition to that, I’ve been reading thriller and mystery for so long, I’d have a big list of those, as well. Nancy Drew would be up there, and Dean Koontz. John Grisham. But then, additionally, I was an English major, so I’ve read all the classics, and those have influenced me a lot, as well. Poetry, too. Eliot and Hopkins most notably.
11) If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
It would absolutely be Derek Hobson. And I’d be okay with just riding on his bike. Although maybe a little B&E, too…. #sigh
12) Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?
I usually don’t respond to reviews. I did once, on one of my very first books, and I learned from the experience that it’s not my job to tell readers what they did and didn’t experience during my books. I’ve learned that I have to be really okay with putting the book out into the world and letting people think what they’re going to think. Not everyone will like every book, and reviews are supposed to help readers find the books they will and won’t like. As a good friend says, reviews are for readers, not for authors.
Thanks so much for having me!
And THANK YOU for being willing to answer my questions today!! 🙂