Sunday, March 31, 2019

Lights! Camera! Puzzles! by Parnell Hall

I don't usually read Parnell Hall's Puzzle Lady mysteries, but I'm always attracted to books set in New York City. Cora Felton, The Puzzle Lady, is featured in this one, while her niece, Sherry Carter, really has just a small supporting role. Cora hopes there's a star playing her role in Lights! Camera! Puzzles!

If Cora Felton didn't need the money, she certainly wouldn't be sitting in a theater watching actresses audition to play her in the movie made from her fifth ex-husband's trashy tell-all book. When a production assistant is murdered before filming event starts, Sergeant Crowley, a homicide detective and one of Cora's ex-boyfriends, calls her to the scene. Lovers' spat gone wrong? It's possible because the woman's boyfriend is found dead as well.

Something just doesn't feel right to Cora. However, she's sidetracked when Angela Broadbent, a television actress, steps in to portray her in the film. Filming starts again, but murders continue to roll.  Cora's not really interested in solving these murders. She's willing to let Crowley solve this series of murders, but Angela pushes her to investigate.

The one-liners and witty comebacks never stop in the latest Puzzle Lady romp. The humorous mystery takes readers behind the scenes in the film world. Readers who appreciate fast-paced cozy mysteries with an outrageous amateur sleuth will enjoy puzzling out the clues in Lights! Camera! Puzzles!

Parnell Hall's website is www.parnellhall.com

Lights! Camera! Puzzles! by Parnell Hall. Pegasus Crime, 2019. ISBN 9781643130590 (hardcover), 272p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.











Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Hidden Corpse by Debra Sennefelder

Last March, I reviewed Debra Sennefelder's first Food Blogger mystery, The Uninvited Corpsehttp://bit.ly/2JsXEtx. I said it was a promising start, with an amateur sleuth with an unusual career as a food blogger. I was very enthusiastic about the supporting cast and the potential. Unfortunately, the characters are much weaker in this second book, The Hidden Corpse.

The disappearance of Lily Barnhart, a member of the Planning & Zoning committee, has everyone in Jefferson, Connecticut abuzz. Food blogger Hope Early has other concerns. Her elderly neighbor Peggy needs help. Peggy doesn't want her daughter to know that she fell asleep, and a pan on the stove set off the smoke alarm. Hope later regrets her decision not to inform Peggy's daughter. Hope is the one who finds Peggy's house on fire, and she never mentioned Peggy's memory issues. And, there are two bodies found in the house.

The police chief and the investigating detective both warn Hope not to get involved, but she's nosy. A retired mystery author encourages Hope, who asks a few too many questions for comfort of some powerful people. She finds a warning nailed to her door, but that's not going to stop her.

The recipes are enticing. While Hope's asking questions about murder, she's also talking classes and learning more about blogging and food photography. That information is interesting. However, Hope's attitude in this mystery alienates even her best friends. The Hidden Corpse is a weak mystery, and the other characters don't offer much support this time around.

Debra Sennefelder's website is www.debrasennefelder.com

The Hidden Corpse by Debra Sennefelder. Kensington Books, 2019. ISBN 9781496715937 (paperback), 304p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy of the book to review for a journal.



















Friday, March 29, 2019

Winners and Food a la Death

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Ashley C. from Knoxville, TN won Dark Streets Cold Suburbs, and Charlotte W. of Covington, GA will receive Lies Come Easy. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, there's food and humor in both mysteries. Chocolate a la Murder by Kirsten Weiss is the latest Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum mystery. Let me assure you that you don't have to have read earlier ones. Instead, you can plunge right into Wine and Chocolate Days in San Benedetto. When Maddie Kosloski, owner of the museum, visits the town's new chocolate shop to pick up her supplies for the town celebration, she finds one of the owners dipped in his own chocolate.





Cookin' the Books is the first in a new series by Amy Patricia Meade. Tish Tarragon has just opened Cookin' the Books Cafe, and her handsome new landlord recommends her services to the executive director of the local library. He does warn her that Binnie Broderick can be difficult to work with. And, whoever poisons her must have felt the same way about the overbearing, demanding woman. But, Tish's business is now on the line.






Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win Chocolate a la Murder" or "Win Cookin' the Books." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, April 4 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

What Are You Reading?

Let's talk about what we're reading today or this week. I'm now addicted to Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' Bill Slider police procedurals. I've read three in the last week, and, as I'm writing this, I have about 150 pages left in the third in the series, Necrochip. And, I have the next three on order. I'm buying them in the omnibus editions because that's how they're available, three at a time. And, even though I'm reading them individually, I won't review them often here. You probably don't want to hear one-by-one about the Bill Slider books. Just enough to tell you that I'm loving the characters and the sly humor. The subject of Necrochip? As you can tell by the book cover, a finger is found in a pack of chips from a fish-and-chips shop. This is a police procedural, so it isn't long before other body parts are found.


What are you reading this week? I hope you've found something that has caught your attention. Let us know, please!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Orchestrated Death by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

I didn't know how the first Bill Slider mystery would hold up. I hadn't read any of the books in the series when I received the most recent one, Headlong, for review. I'm a fan of police procedurals, and this book introduced me to a group of fascinating characters, Detective Inspector Bill Slider and his team. So, I went back and picked up the first one, Orchestrated Death. There might have been a little more cop humor in the latest book, but this first book serves as an outstanding launch to the series.

Slider is approaching burnout, in his career and his marriage. He's been married for fifteen years to Irene, has two children, but his sergeant, Jim Atherton, and others, warned him. Don't marry a woman without a sense of humor. She's disappointed in his lack of career trajectory, and his lack of interest in moving up in society. And, she harangues him, saying no one in the police department respects him.

Perhaps burnout is why Slider takes their new case so personally. He and Atherton are sent to an empty flat where the body of a young naked woman has been found. There's no identification, nothing in the flat, but Atherton recognizes a mark on the woman's neck. She was a violinist, "a fiddle-player". In the course of Slider's investigation, he learns that she sat beside another violinist, Joanna Marshall, in the orchestra. When Slider meets Joanna to interview her about the young woman, Anne-Marie Austen, he and Joanna are immediately attracted to each other.

For the first time in his life, Slider allows his personal life to take him away from a case, but the station is able to track him down when they want to report the death of a witness. It's a difficult case, and the killer seems to always be one step ahead of Slider. Even when higher ups shut down the case and pull Slider from it, he still wants to find justice for the victim, Anne-Marie Austen.

The reader gets to know Bill Slider through his own feelings, but, first, through the eyes of Sergeant Jim Atherton. He sees him as dogged, thorough, a good policeman, and a good man. He's reserved, and doesn't make friends easily. He depends on the assistance of Atherton. Atherton views him as exactly what he seems to be - decent, kindly, honest, hard-working, maybe overconscientious. That decency and tendency to be overconscientious will bother Slider right now in his new relationship with Joanna, and as he continues to seek answers to the latest case. Even his father knows Bill has an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, is indecisive, and has a tendency to worry about what he couldn't change.

Slider impresses me as a police officer, and as a human being. He can't move on from his sympathy for the victim. He says, "That's the terrible thing about my job. By its very nature, almost everything I do is done too late." Slider's thoughts when he attends Anne-Marie's funeral are, "Funerals above all reminded you that there was no going back, that every day something was taken from you that you could never have back."

Orchestrated Death was a sound introduction to a character I didn't really get to know in Headlong. I'm a fan of police procedurals, especially ones set in England, and I read for character. I'm ready to dive headlong into Bill Slider's world. I've already started the second book, Death Watch.

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' website is https://www.cynthiaharrodeagles.com

Orchestrated Death by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. Avon Books, 1991. 266p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Overnight Kidnapper by Andrea Camilleri

Whether it's the actual writing or the translation by Stephen Sartarelli, the twenty-third book in the Inspector Montalbano mystery series, The Overnight Kidnapper, has enough humor involving the office staff at the police department to make it a Sicilian cousin of Bill Crider's Sheriff Dan Rhodes' mysteries. Armchair travelers may want to venture to Sicily for the latest book. You don't need to have read earlier books to enjoy the humor in this one.


The opening scenes are already funny. One involves a fly waking Inspector Salvo Montalbano. The other scene causes him to be late for work. He attempts to break up a fight, and all three men, including Montalbano, are arrested by the Carabinieri. Once he's at work, he learns of the strange kidnapping of a woman. She was abducted, drugged, and released unharmed the next morning. When that happens a second time, with another woman, it doesn't take much for Montalbano to catch the similarities. Both kidnap victims are in their thirties and work at banks. When a third kidnapping turns violent, bankers start to worry.

Police don't work in a vacuum, with just one case at a time. Montalbano and his team are also investigating a case of arson. The owner of the burnt out shop, Marcello Di Carlo, has disappeared. Montalbano is shrewd enough to find a connection between Di Carlo's disappearance and the unusual kidnappings.

The Overnight Kidnapper is an atmospheric mystery. It's filled with descriptions of Sicilian politics, customs, and food. Readers will appreciate Inspector Montalbano's team and his sly ability to maneuver his superiors. If you're looking for a humorous police procedural series, check out Andrea Camilleri's books.

The Overnight Kidnapper by Andrea Camilleri. Translation by Stephen Sartarelli. Penguin Books, 2019. ISBN 9780143131137 (paperback), 272p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.








Monday, March 25, 2019

A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

I recently mentioned the Veronica Speedwell series, and a fellow librarian said it was one of his favorite series. Yes, mine too. Deanna Raybourn's adventurous Victorian lepidopterist and her fellow natural scientist, Stoker, are intelligent and witty with sparkling conversations and numerous jabs at each other. The country house mystery is intriguing in the fourth in the series. But, it's the sexual tension that dominates their latest exploit.

Veronica and Stoker's last adventure, chronicled in A Treacherous Curse, took a great deal out of both of them, so Veronica went to Madeira for six months. The two are still barely speaking to each other when Stoker's older brother, Tiberius, Lord Templeton-Vane, asks her to accompany him to the island of St. Madden, off the coast of Cornwall. St. Madden is owned by Malcolm Romilly, Tiberius' best friend from his school days. He's hosting a small party. Veronica isn't eager to go until Tiberius bribes her with a promise of Romilly Glasswing butterflies.

It's only when it's too late to back out, on the train to Cornwall, that Tiberius informs Veronica he wants her to act as his fiancee. She reluctantly agrees, but it's even harder to fake that arrangement when Stoker shows up uninvited. However, Tiberius has his reasons. Malcolm Romilly's house party is three years after his bride, Rosamund, disappeared from the island on the day of their wedding. The events surrounding Rosamund have haunted Malcolm ever since, and he wants answers. Veronica and Stoker are always up for a new mystery and adventure, no matter how strange it might appear.

Raybourn's latest is a captivating, atmospheric story of folk tales, ghosts, and mystery. There are poison gardens and village women with the sight. Veronica hears stories of mermaids and smugglers, and she and Stoker explore secret passageways and hidden rooms. However, even when Stoker and Veronica are barely speaking to each other, the chemistry between the two dominate the book. If you've been following the series, or, if you're new to it, Raybourn can capture that emotion in just a sentence. My favorite line from this latest book?  "He put out his hand and I took it, feeling the whole world in the warmth of that clasp."

Deanna Raybourn's website is www.deannaraybourn.com

A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn. Berkley, 2019. ISBN 9780451490711 (hardcover), 336p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy from the publisher with no promises that I would review it.

Note: Deanna Raybourn recently appeared at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona. She and Barbara Peters, the owner of the bookstore, had a fascinating conversation about Victorian women and their adventures. You can watch that conversation here.




Sunday, March 24, 2019

Trouble on the Books by Essie Lang

I love the setting of Essie Lang's new mystery and series. Trouble on the Books is a Castle Bookshop Mystery. Bayside Books is located in Alexandria Bay in upstate New York. The second location for the store is in Blye Castle on Blye Island. The setting is more appealing than the amateur sleuth or the mystery itself, though.

Shelby Cox returns to her childhood home when her Aunt Edie needs help following surgery. Shelby is now part owner of Bayside Books, and she'll be running the one on Blye Island in the castle. Soon after she has a run-in with Loreen Swan, the castle curator, Shelby discovers Loreen's body in the island grotto. Aunt Edie worries that the local police chief will try to railroad the groundskeeper at the castle, so she asks Shelby to poke around. Because Shelby just moved back, she doesn't know many people in town, but that doesn't stop her from asking questions, annoying townspeople, the police chief, the state police, and even a handsome Coast Guard agent.

Shelby is convinced the murder may be linked to the castle's history of smuggling. Her imagination runs wild with ideas that many of the people she encounters could be suspects. As an amateur sleuth, Shelby lacks people skills. She also doesn't quite fit the cozy mystery image of an insider asking questions of everyone she knows. She isn't part of the local community, and it's hard to suspend disbelief and accept that everyone would answer a nosy stranger's questions.

The author has written other cozy mysteries under the names Linda Wiken and Erika Chase. This first one in the new series just falls flat for me. Readers might be better off to try Eva Gates or Jenn McKinlay's books if they're looking for mysteries with books and appealing amateur sleuths.

The author's website is www.Lindawiken.com

Trouble on the Books by Essie Lang. Crooked Lane Books, 2019. ISBN 9781683319818 (hardcover), 336p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.






Saturday, March 23, 2019

A Case of Bier by Mary Daheim

If you like the title of Mary Daheim's latest Bed-and-Breakfast mystery, A Case of Bier, you'll probably enjoy the book more than I did. I'm not a fan of broad humor, the hit you in the face, Three Stooges type of humor. But, this is the thirty-first book in the series, so Daheim's mysteries reach their audience.

Judith McMonigle Flynn is ready for a vacation away from her popular B&B. But, she and her cousin Renie make the mistake of allowing their husbands to plan the trip to Banff in the Canadian Rockies. The two women imagined a stay in a luxurious hotel. Instead, they end up in a cheap motel while the men go off on an extended fishing trip.

How does Judith entertain herself? She's nosy, so she checks out an unusual gathering of the Stokes family from Nebraska. They have a bier ready to send down the river when the family elder, Codger, dies. According to the family, Codger is ready to go anytime. But, when a body is found with knife wounds, it disappears before the Mounties can investigate. Unfortunately for Sergeant Brewster, RCMP, Judith is on the case. She's been labeled a FASTO, a female amateur sleuth tracking offenders.

The fast-paced mystery supplies what passes for humorous dialogue between the cousins. There are multiple opportunies for disappearances of corpses and suspects. "What's a vacation for if we can't find a corpse?" sums up Judith McMonigle Flynn's philosophy and the comic ongoing series. As I said, it's not for me, but those who appreciate puns and broad humor might lap up A Case of Bier.

Mary Daheim's website is www.marydaheimauthor.com

A Case of Bier by Mary Daheim. William Morrow, 2019. ISBN 9780062663818 (hardcover), 288p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.





Friday, March 22, 2019

Winners and Give Me an H Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Anita Y. from Barnesville, GA won A Deadly Divide. John S. of Iowa City, IA will receive Watcher in the Woods. The books will go out in the mail on Saturday.

This week, I'm giving away books with authors whose names begin with H. Aimee Hix' Dark Streets Cold Suburbs features apprentice PI Willa Pennington. Willa's last case almost got her killed. Helping her old mentor review a decades-old cold case seems so much safer. But, when she reaches out to a teenager in trouble, a new case rips into Willa's life in a way she never could have predicted.







The other book is from Steven F. Havill's Posadas County Mystery series, Lies Come Easy. (I've read every book in this series.) On a blizzardy New Mexico night just before Christmas, Deputy Pasquale picks up a toddler scooting his Scamper along the shoulder of a state route. The child's father dumped him from his truck. With the father in jail, the small department has time to help the US Forest Service search for a missing range tech. That case leads to the discovery of bodies. It's not a glorious holiday in Posadas County.





Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win Dark Streets" or "Win Lies Come Easy." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, March 28 at 5 PM CT.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

What Are You Reading?

I'm actually "playing" with a book right now, rather than reading it. As an early birthday present, a friend gave me a copy of an oversized book,The Lost Files of Nancy Drew. It purports to be Nancy Drew's newly discovered notes about her early cases, beginning with The Secret of the Old Clock. It's what reviews call "an interactive book". In other words, it's a lift-the-flap, open-the-envelope type of book, just fun. Open a paper to find Nancy Drew's list of supplies needed for sleuthing. Or, there's her housekeeper's recipe for chicken and rice. There are summaries of a number of her cases. But, one of my favorite notes comes from The Hidden Staircase. There are a number of amateur sleuths who could learn a thing or two from Nancy Drew. She's smart enough to say when heading off to a strange location, let someone know where you're going so they can try to locate you if you don't show up in a reasonable amount of time. This is such a fun gift that brings back so many memories. I loved this series.


What books are you reading or listening to, or even playing with, this week? I hope you've found something to enjoy. Let us know, please.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura

I seldom read translated books because something always seems to be lost in the translation. I don't think that happened with Genki Kawamura's If Cats Disappeared from the World. Eric Selland seems to have brought all the magic and thoughtfulness that made this book an international bestseller. It's a small book that might bring a tear or two, but it's one that will make you think.

At thirty, the narrator, a postman, is told he has a brain tumor, Stage 4, and has very little time to live. His mother has been dead for four years. He hasn't spoken to his father since then. He lives alone with just his cat, Cabbage. He doesn't know how he'll spend his last days. Then, the devil shows up in his apartment.

First, the devil challenges him to make that list of ten things he wants to do before he dies, and it's a pathetic list. In looking at it, it's easy to see the postman is looking for love. But, the devil has an alternative plan, a bargain. "Remove one thing from the world, and in return, you'll get one more day of life."

It's an interesting proposition. What would you remove from the world? The narrator picks one item, and then, the next day, a second one. It felt as if they were selfish actions at first. He never even thought about how the disappearance of those items would affect people he knew. "When it comes to actually erasing things from your life, it actually makes you start to think."

And, that's precisely what this story does; it makes the reader, and the postman think about life. What's important in life? What's important to the world? As I said, the book may bring a tear or two, but those tears are for the man who appears to have made a wise decision for the end of his life. If Cats Disappeared from the World succeeds as a thoughtful piece of writing, and, as a translation.

If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura. Flatiron Books, 2019. ISBN 9781250294050 (hardcover), 168p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Murder Once Removed by S.C. Perkins

S. C Perkins won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition for Murder Once Removed, and deservedly so. The first Ancestry Detective mystery is a fascinating debut, with likable characters. If you're interested in genealogy, or like cold cases, it's even more intriguing.

Lucy Lancaster won't let go when she's on a hunt for ancestry. She endangers herself and others who have clues to a death that took place in 1849 in Texas. Gus Halloran, patriarch of one of Texas' most powerful families, hires Lucy to trace his family lineage. While doing research, she finds a photograph of Seth Halloran's body, and the photographer's confession that he lied to hide the murder on behalf o another powerful family. While Lucy narrows the killer down to one of two families, Gus announces at a press conference that an ancestor of a Texas senator killed Seth.

For once in her life, Lucy had drank a little too much at the luncheon celebrating the successful search for lineage. She wasn't able to prevent Halloran's announcement. Now, she finds she also can't prevent the break-ins that resulted when someone didn't like Lucy's discoveries. Lucy feels guilty about the break-ins, but it's the murder of her mentor, and the dismissive attitude of an FBI agent that cause her to turn amateur sleuth.

Lucy Lancaster is an appealing intelligent amateur sleuth, who bases her conclusions on her research. Her office mates, long-time friends, are also strong, supportive women. There's an excellent supporting cast, a little sexual tension, a combination of a cold case and a current one, along with some Texas history in the book. The intricately plotted story is a strong, enjoyable mystery debut.

S.C. Perkins' website is www.SCPerkins.com

Murder Once Removed by S.C. Perkins. Minotaur Books, 2019. ISBN 9781250189035 (hardcover), 336p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Monday, March 18, 2019

S.C. Perkins, An Interview

S.C. Perkins' debut mystery, Murder Once Removed, is one of my favorite mysteries this year.  My review of the book will run tomorrow. In the meantime, it's my pleasure to introduce you to S.C. Perkins. I hope you enjoy the interview, and give her mystery a try.

S.C., congratulations on the release of your debut mystery. Would you introduce yourself to readers, please?

Hi and thank you so much for having me on your blog, Lesa! I’m S.C. Perkins and I hail from Houston, Texas. Besides my writing and my day job, I dabble in container gardening—thus far I’ve only been successful with bell peppers, but it still counts!—and I ride horses whenever I can. Though I love being in the city, my favorite place to be is down on the coast at the beach.  

Would you introduce us to Lucy Lancaster?


Lucy is a professional genealogist living in Austin, Texas, and she absolutely loves her job, especially when she gets to unravel historical and genealogical clues. While her two best friends (and a certain FBI agent with whom she locks horns) might say Lucy’s a wee bit stubborn, she’s got a good and loyal heart and a desire to right wrongs. This latter trait might cause her to get into trouble more than she ought, yes, but that’s what makes her all the more fun to write. Lastly, she’s also undeniably hooked on her drug of choice:  tacos, with a side of guacamole or queso. Or both, because why not? Lucy lives every day like it’s Taco Tuesday, for sure.

Without spoilers, tell us about Murder Once Removed.

While working on the family tree of wealthy businessman Gus Halloran, Lucy uncovers an 1849 daguerreotype photograph and a journal with a missing page, both of which prove Gus’s great-great grandfather’s death wasn’t accidental, but cold-blooded murder.

No sooner has she narrowed the nineteenth-century suspects down to two men—one of whom is the ancestor of present-day U.S. senator Daniel Applewhite—than Gus jumps the gun, publicly outing the senator as the descendant of a murderer.  When the senator’s life is later threatened, Lucy lands in the path of kinda-grumpy, kinda-charming FBI Special Agent Ben Turner.

But when another tragedy strikes closer to home, Lucy’s convinced what’s on the missing journal page is as important now as it was in 1849. She’s determined to find the page and unearth how the killer is connected to both the past and the present, be it through cousins, second cousins, or cousins once removed—and before she’s removed, permanently.

This is the first Ancestry Detective series. Why did you decide to write mysteries about genealogy? What’s your own interest in genealogical research?

I have several amateur genealogists on my dad’s side, including my late grandmother and great-grandfather, giving me a lifelong fascination with family history. Just about every time I went to my grandmother’s house, I heard some interesting story about my lineage and/or the latest relative she’d found. I never grew tired of it, either! So when the idea for an amateur sleuth came to my mind, my very first thought was to make her a genealogist. There was never anything else Lucy would be.

Can you give us a hint about the next book in the series?

If all goes well, the second book in the Ancestry Detective series will have a World War II element, which is one of my favorite subjects!

Murder Once Removed won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. What were you doing, and what was your reaction when you learned this?

Oh, it was so exciting and one of the best days of my life, though my reaction had to be more subdued than I would have liked due to my work circumstances. At the time, I was working for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which is a huge 20-plus-day event, and we were in the middle of it, busy as all get out. I was in my tiny office when I saw a call from New York come through on my cell, but I couldn’t answer it since I was on another call on my work phone. When I heard the voicemail from Minotaur Books, though, I called right back! The funny thing was, I was sitting all of three feet away from my co-worker, who was on the phone herself, so I had to keep my voice down and not break into a tap dance of unbridled happiness. My editor teases me I was the calmest winner she’d ever spoken to, but I was absolutely bonkers-thrilled on the inside. And I don’t think I stopped smiling for days!

You’re writing a series set in Texas, and you live in Houston. Where do you like to take people when they come to visit?

Houston is as known for its restaurants as it is for having NASA’s Johnson Space Center in its backyard, so I usually take my guests to a great place to eat first and foremost. If they’re not from Texas, we always go for some good barbecue, naturally.

Depending on the seasons and what someone likes to do, there’s more ways to enjoy yourself in Houston than you can shake a stick at. Some of my favorites include going to an outdoor movie at Miller Outdoor Theatre in the museum district, enjoying an art festival or baseball/football/soccer game, seeing the butterflies at the Museum of Natural Science’s Cockrell Butterfly Center, or going shopping —Houston is also known for its shopping!

But if someone were to come into town around March, I’d take them to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, no doubt. It’s a Houston tradition that benefits Texas children and education as well as being a world-class rodeo and a great time.

What did you read as a child?

I loved books about animals and books with adventure and/or mystery. Some of my favorites included Black Beauty, The Boxcar Children series, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series, and Encyclopedia Brown. But probably my favorite, which remains so to this day and is equally readable as an adult, is James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small. Though it’s not actually a children’s book, my mother wisely let me read it at a very young age and I fell in love.

What authors influenced your mystery writing?

One early influence was Donald J. Sobol in the way he usually had Encyclopedia Brown see a clue in something that seemed otherwise ordinary. But my biggest influence overall is Dick Francis. His books are so well written and are still some of my favorite mysteries to this day. He, too, always imparted some interesting fact or two in his books, and I try to do the same in mine. Current influences, especially in the cozy/traditional mystery genres, include Rhys Bowen, Carolyn Haines, Kate Carlisle, and Donna Andrews. Those ladies are amazing at keeping their ideas fresh and their readers coming back for more.

S.C., because I’m a librarian, I always end the same way. Tell me about a library or librarian who influenced you.

I just love libraries! I can still remember the first time I checked out a book on my own. It was the coolest feeling. I always enjoyed going to any library, including my school libraries in Houston and my local library, Spring Branch Memorial Library. I also loved spending time at my college library at Texas A&M University. All those books with all that information, just waiting to be discovered! Each trip to a library was an adventure. The fact is, libraries are wonderful, as are the librarians who so patiently help readers and researchers every day.


Thank you, S.C. I appreciate the time you took for the interview. And, good luck with Murder Once Removed.

S.C. Perkins' website is www.SCPerkins.com

Murder Once Removed by S.C. Perkins. Minotaur Books, 2019. ISBN 9781250189035 (hardcover), 336p.