Friday, December 15, 2017

Murder Keeps No Calendar and The Negroni with Cathy Ace

One of our favorite authors, Welsh-born, now Canadian Cathy Ace, has launched a new collection of novellas and short stories based on the calendar. Cathy Ace is the author of the Cait Morgan Mysteries and the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries. Winner of the 2015 Bony Blithe Award for Best Canadian Light Mystery, she was a finalist again in 2017, the same year she was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story. Her new collection is just in time for the new year.  

December 18th sees the launch of a collection of novella and short stories that allow Cathy Ace to do something her readers have been asking her to do for some time – she gets the chance to share how Cait Morgan met Bud Anderson, and how the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency decided to set up in business together. Not only that, but she also gets the chance to introduce readers to a new character she hopes they’ll warm to – Detective Inspector Evan Glover of the Glamorgan Police Service, and his wife Betty…whose insights are not something he exactly relies upon, but he’s absolutely prepared to admit they help him out sometimes. 
Beyond these murderously good tales, she also brings standalone shorts and novellas, a total of eight novellas and four short stories, each connected with one month of the year, and all with something in common – MURDER! 
One of the novellas takes readers on a journey to Florence, with Doug Rossi, a chip shop owner from south west Scotland who’s won the lottery, and decides it’s time to find out what his grandfather left behind when he migrated decades earlier. Unfortunately he gets a bit more experience of Italy – and the Italian reality of vendetta – than he’d bargained for. Here’s a brief introduction to Doug:

Doug Rossi considered himself a lucky man: he’d been born to a loving couple; raised in a small but caring community on the west coast of Scotland; married his childhood sweetheart, and ran a well-established family business – Rossi’s Fish and Chips – with a prime location on the seafront.

Most other people in the village considered Doug cursed: he was the only child of five siblings to survive infancy; his fisherman father had been lost at sea when Doug was very young, leaving his mother to run a foundering chip shop alone, then she had died just weeks after his eighteenth birthday; his wife of seventeen years had recently been killed when her car hit a stray cow and – to top it all – the local council was insisting Doug make thousands of pounds’ worth of alterations to his ramshackle chip shop, or be closed down.
As Doug always said: it was how you looked at a thing that made it what it was, and if you just took the bitter with the sweet, it would usually all work out for the best. In the end.”

Whilst chatting with a mysterious woman at his Florentine hotel, Doug is encouraged to try a Negroni. She suggests he takes it lengthened with soda, to allow it to be more suitable as an afternoon quencher, rather than the aperitif it usually is. So what’s it like? Let Doug tell you:

He sipped the reddish liquid with care, unsure what to expect. His taste buds felt as though they were about to burst; the drink was fragrant and, at first, sweet at the front of his tongue, and on his lips. Then, as he swallowed, a wave of intense bitterness hit him; his mouth felt cleansed. The singed orange peel balanced on the edge of the glass gave the experience an extra dimension, the pungent oils settling in his nose and making the flavor of the drink even more complex.
‘It’s like a wee work of art in a glass,’ he said quietly, addressing the drink itself, more than the woman opposite. 
She sat back and looked at Doug through narrowed eyes. ‘You understand what is difficult. Complicated. This is good. So, why you come here, in Firenze?’”

So, if you fancy an anthology that’s going to give you some wonderful background insights into characters you might already know, as well as introducing you to characters who will be around more in the future, this is a great one for you. Two of the stories in it have already been produced for BBC Radio 4…and there are settings to please everyone, too; come to Canada to be with Cait when she meets Bud, to Wales to meet Evan and Betty Glover, to London where the four women meet who will set up the WISE Enquiries Agency, to Shanghai in the 1930s, a tea shop in an Oxfordshire village, meet a fledgling PI in the Kentish city of Dover, or enjoy Florence with Doug and the mysterious woman he meets over a Negroni. And try a Negroni yourself – it’s an unusual, fabulous taste, as Cathy can attest – but be aware it’s very much a “love it or hate it” sort of drink.

The Negroni

This drink was invented at Casoni Bar in Florence in the 1920s, and recipes don’t vary too much. This one is tried, tested, and loved. You can add as much soda as you like to lengthen the drink, but if you add more soda water than the total quantity of the alcohol, the flavor changes a great deal. You have been warned!

One part Bombay Sapphire gin (or your favorite gin)
One part Cinzano Rosso (or any sweet vermouth)
One part Campari (no substitutes for this one!)
Shake with ice, strain over ice in a tumbler, or stir over ice in a stirring jar
Either place a slice of orange in the drink, or, if you have the time, take the rind from a slice of orange and singe it with a lighter, placing it on the edge of the glass, not in the drink.
You may add soda water if you wish.

As the Italians would say, “Cin, cin!”

You can find Cathy on Facebook and Twitter @AceCathy. The book is on Kindle and print. 


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express Tree

Every July we love to put together a mystery-themed tree. This year we created a tree to pay homage to Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. You can see all of the ornaments on the tree above, with instructions on how to make each one below.

First up are the book cover ornaments. I love these ornaments because I am partial to the graphics on the ol Agatha Christie book covers. 

Here is our Clues ornament. All of the different clues at the scene were almost enough to confuse Poirot, but not quite. 

Here is an ornament that we fashioned out of another clue in the story... the pocket watch

And of course at the very top of the tree goes the fabulous tree topper created by Lorraine Masonheimer. Isn't it beautiful? 

Big thanks to Kerry, Sharon and Lorraine for the team effort on getting this year's tree together. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mystery Wednesday - Mystery Playground Book Club Announcement

Today we're announcing the 2018 Mystery Playground Book Club.  Death Comes to Pemberly by PD James is the inaugural pick for our club. All through 2018 we plan to read a book together and discuss it here on the blog and in our Mystery Playground closed discussion group on Facebook (which you are invited to join).

Here's a description of the book that picks up where Jane Austen's Pride and Predjudice left off:

In their six years of marriage, Elizabeth and Darcy have forged a peaceful, happy life for their family at Pemberley, Darcy’s impressive estate. Her father is a regular visitor; her sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; the marriage prospects for Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, are favorable. And preparations for their annual autumn ball are proceeding apace. But on the eve of the ball, chaos descends. Lydia Wickham, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister who, with her husband, has been barred from the estate, arrives in a hysterical state—shrieking that Wickham has been murdered.  Plunged into a frightening mystery and a lurid murder trial, the lives of Pemberley’s owners and servants alike may never be the same.

Pick up the book at the library and come discuss it with us on 16th January. We'll be comparing it the TV series. 

Here are the other book picks for the first half of the year so you can read ahead:

February: Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

March: The Lost Order by Steve Berry 

April: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

May: Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz

June: Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

It's a mix of older and more recent books. Let us know if you have any suggestions for picks in the second half of the year. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Review: Hunger Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

Kerry Hammond is here today to review AlexandraSokoloff’s new novel in her Huntress series. Alexandra Sokoloff is the bestselling, Thriller Award-winning and Bram Stoker and Anthony Award-nominated author of eleven supernatural, paranormal and crime thrillers. The New York Times has called her "a daughter of Mary Shelley" and her books "Some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre."

As a screenwriter she has sold original suspense and horror scripts and written novel adaptations for numerous Hollywood studios (Sony, Fox, Disney, Miramax), for producers such as Michael Bay, David Heyman, Laura Ziskin and Neal Moritz.
Her bestselling, Thriller Award-nominated Huntress/FBI series follows a haunted FBI agent on the hunt for that most rare of criminals: a female serial killer. Huntress MoonBlood MoonCold MoonHunger Moon and Bitter Moon are out now. The series is being developed for television with Alex as writer/producer.

Hunger Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff is the 5th book in the author’s Huntress/FBI thriller series featuring FBI agent Matthew Roarke and serial killer Cara Lindstrom. The book was released in Paperback on October 24, 2017, by Thomas & Mercer publishers.

This series features an FBI agent and the serial killer he hunts, but that description requires quite a bit of explanation. Cara might be a serial killer, but when you realize that she hunts and kills the worst offenders that society has to offer, you understand that she is anything but your average murderer. With a troubled past, Cara is more of an avenger than a killer, and that fact makes this series particularly exciting.

In Hunger Moon, Cara is on the run and Matthew has returned to the FBI after what we’ll just call “time away” to avoid any spoilers from previous books. Hundreds of college campuses are simultaneously targeted with threats against rapists living on campus who are targeting young college girls. These are in the form of words painted in prominent places and images of Santa Muerte, a female deity that personifies death. When a frat boy goes missing, law enforcement realizes that the vandalism on the campuses is the least of their worries.

Roarke, who is just recently starting to form a special FBI task force, must look into the campus events and try and figure out what, if anything, a group of radical feminists have to do with things. Meanwhile, Cara is both hunter and hunted. Roarke can’t help but wonder what role she plays in his most recent case and how he can keep her safe from a man who wants to destroy her.   

This is a very compelling series and not for the faint of heart. The crimes that are perpetrated on the victims Cara avenges are harsh and gruesome. Her punishment for the offenders is equally bloody and a lot of the content could easily be the backstory to something we see in the news every day. Reading these books in order will give you a better sense of the characters and their motivations. You will not only fall in love with Cara, but you will understand why Matthew is so torn on bringing her in for any sort of punishment.

You can read reviews of previous books in the series: BitterMoon and Huntress Moon.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review was fair and completely independent. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mystery Stocking Stuffers for the Book Lover

Last Monday we covered fun paperback books (and one hardback) to put into a mystery lovers stocking, and this week we're covering other items for book lovers. 

Over on her Etsy store, Pattie Tierney has a slew of creative mystery-themed bracelets that are to die for. This locked room bracelet is my favorite, but you'll also find Trixie Belden, Mystery Writer and Ellery Queen themed bracelets just to name a few.

I've covered these before, but here they are again because I love them so much, the themed candles from the Flame Noir Candle Company, especially Hercule's Christmas. 

At the Crime Scene Sisters' Etsy shop, you'll find this fabulous Clue game pocket mirror, which is the perfect price and size for a stocking.

And an array of Sherlock jewelry and tote bags

If you'd rather make some stocking presents, you could start with these bookmarks.

- Deborah Lacy

Friday, December 8, 2017

Close to Me and the Perfect Gin & Tonic

Amanda Reynolds has been making G&Ts to go with her debut novel, Close to Me. You can find her on Twitter.

Jo Harding can't remember the last year of her life. And her husband wants to keep it that way.

When Jo falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in the hospital with partial amnesia. In fact, she finds that she's lost an entire year of memories, and she can't remember anything that happened the night she fell. Her husband and her two children assure her that everything's fine, but Jo's family seems to have gone through a lot of dramatic changes in the past year, and she can't let go of the suspicion that there's more they're keeping from her. As she pieces together the details of the past twelve months, it becomes more and more clear that her family wants her to stay in the dark--but why? 

CLOSE TO ME, is set in the rolling British countryside, but not the chocolate box image you may now have in your head. The hills are dark, claustrophobic, encircling the isolated converted barn where Jo and Rob Harding live in splendid isolation. Inside the barn the rooms are large and tastefully furnished, but in a minimalistic way, all Rob’s choice. 
Jo is the perfect wife in his eyes, he adores her. Before her fall, he would come home from work and mix them the perfect Gin and Tonic, lovingly crafted so it’s a work of art, as she is to him – perfection! But nothing is ever perfect, and the Harding’s marriage is far from it.

Here is Rob’s very exacting recipe…

Rob’s Gin and Tonic

One-part Cotswold Gin
Two parts Fever Tree Tonic
Wedge of Lime

Fill a tall crystal glass with ice cubes, clink-clink.
Pour in the Cotswold Gin 
Top up with Fever Tree Tonic
Mix with a swizzle stick

Then drop in a freshly cut wedge of fresh lime and serve

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Mistletoe Kisses Holiday Card

Lorraine Masonheimer has been making wonderful cards again for Crafty Thursday. This time she's got you all set for Christmas. 

CONCEPT: Sporting a snowy background and traditional red and green color scheme, this holiday card is casually elegant. The bewitching snowlady, nestled into her bed of snow, has dropped her mistletoe over her favorite book with a flirty play on words. The three charms laugh, create and imagine dangle from the card and can be recycled into a bracelet or necklace. ‘Tis the season to play, laugh, spend time with loved ones — and give. Creating this handmade card is a great way to kick off the giving season.

8½” x 11” cream cardstock
Color coordinated papers (two snow-like patterns—red and green, four solid colors—one red, three greens light, medium, and dark)
6” x 9” envelope Snowy Fran 6127 and Tools Cube 6145 stamps
Black Ink Pad
Pine punch
2” circle punch
Green rhinestones
Red enamel dot
Markers—red, green and blue
Small round punch
Three 6mm jump rings
Round nose pliers
3 small flat charms
Flower soft ivory (
Wet glue, glue dots, pop-up dots
Black pen, Gelly Roll sparkle pen
Scissors and x-acto blade

Step One: Card Base
Fold an 8½” x 11” cardstock in half for a 5½” x 8½” card base. Cut the red pattern paper to 5” x 8”, the green patterned paper to 4½” x 6”, the solid red to 4 ¼” x5 ½” and the medium solid green to 2” x 4 ¾.”

Step Two: Stamp, Draw & Cut
Stamp, cut and color the snowlady and book onto a piece of cream cardstock using a charcoal ink pad. Draw a squiggly-lined mistletoe from her hand as shown. Take the red paper and punch out a 2” circle 1 ¾” from the top right corner and 1/8” from the right side. Punch 2 each of dark, medium and light green sprigs of pine. Punch 3 small round holes in the bottom right corner about ½” apart depending upon the charms you have chosen. Using the round nose pliers gently twist open the jump rings, slip the charms onto each ring, carefully thread the ring through the holes in the paper and close the ring.

Step Three: Text, Assemble & Embellish
To create the sentiment, type “Merry Kiss Mas” into a 3” x 3” text box. This example centers the text and uses AR Christy at 28 points. Be sure to leave enough space between “Kiss” and “Mas” to place the red embellishment. Cut and glue the sentiment to fit behind the 2” circle centered. Glue the red patterned paper to the card base centering to create a cream border.

Glue the green patterned paper to the card base ½” below the top of the red paper. Glue the solid green paper to the upper left corner of the red paper as shown. Wrap the twine over the solid red and green paper and glue to the back of the paper. Then glue to card base.

Using a throwaway paintbrush, paint wet glue that dries clear onto the bottom of the red and green patterned paper. Sprinkle with flower soft ivory ‘snow’ and let dry. Place pop-up dots onto the snowlady and book and glue into the position as shown. Nestle the snowlady into the snow. Glue the pine sprigs over the top of the twine placing the darkest color on the bottom and the lightest on top. Glue 3 red embellishments into the center bottom of the sprigs. Place a red embellishment between the words “Kiss” and “Mas.” Place two green rhinestones for her sparkling holiday eyes.

Step Four: Interior and Envelope
Using the computer, create a text box about 4” x 6” and type “Twinkling lights, cookie and cocoa nights, a cozy mystery or two, happy holiday to you!” The example shown uses the type face Comic Sans at 16 pts centered. Print and cut the sentiment into a 4” x 6” rectangle. Adhere the sentiment to the card as shown. Use scraps to form modern shaped Christmas trees with star and circle toppers glued to the left side. If desired, add a few pine sprigs and three berries glued to the envelope flap and send out your happy holiday wishes.

Merry Christmas everyone!