Friday, September 20, 2019

Crypt Suzette and Spiked Spiced Cider

Maya (Mary Ann) Corrigan joins us today on Drinks with Reads. Maya writes the Five-Ingredient Mysteries: By Cook or by Crook, Scam Chowder, Final Fondue, The Tell-Tale Tarte, S’more Murders, and Crypt Suzette. The series, set in a historic town along the Chesapeake Bay, features a cafĂ© manager and dinner-party caterer solving murders with her live-wire grandfather, the Codger Cook. Each book has five suspects, five clues, and Granddad’s five-ingredient recipes. Let's see what she has in store for us today...

When Val caters a party at Bayport’s new bookshop on Spooktacular Saturday, a costume contest is part of the festivities. Everyone dresses as characters from books. Among the contestants are the Fictionistas, a creative writing group started by Suzette, the secretive young woman who rents a spare bedroom in the house Val shares with her grandfather. As Val tells her best friend, “People choose costumes that mirror their personalities.” If that’s true, Suzette’s fellow Fictionistas reveal a violent streak. They dress as the ambitious Lady Macbeth, the obsessive Phantom of the Opera, a zombie from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the vengeful Morgan le Fay, evil sorceress from Camelot. 
After Suzette is found dead of an apparent accident, Val and Granddad suspect foul play. When the Fictionistas gather at the bookshop on Halloween eve, Val offers them a drink perfect for a chilly day—warm spiced apple cider. Though non-alcoholic, the cider she serves seems to be spiked with truth serum. The Fictionistas lose their inhibitions and accuse each other of murder. Did one of them kill Suzette or was her death rooted in the past she’d kept secret and tried to escape? Having dressed as Nancy Drew for the bookshop party, Val tries to answer that question and almost becomes the next “accident” victim.

The drink related to my book is an alcoholic version of the warm spiced cider Val makes. Spiked Spiced Cider works well for a Halloween party or any cool-weather party. It’s also a tongue-twister, so you can challenge your guests to say it five times fast. 
This drink is also known as mulled apple cider. Like mulled wine, it’s simmered in a crock pot or on the stove with spices and citrus for flavor. The spices should include cinnamon and cloves at a minimum, but you can also add a star anise or grated fresh ginger if you like that flavor. Put the smaller spices in a tea ball or wrapped and tied cheesecloth. If you don’t do that, you’ll need to strain the cider before serving it. Simmer the spices and cider, keeping them below the boiling point, and only add the alcohol after you remove the cider from the heat. 

½ gallon(1.9 L) unfiltered apple cider
2  cinnamon sticks 
10 whole cloves
1/2 oz. (15 ml) orange juice or lemon juice if you prefer a less sweet drink
1 oz. (30 ml) dark rum or brandy [Skip for a non-alcoholic cider]
Sliced oranges and cinnamon sticks for garnish
Put the apple cider, spices, and juice in a large pot or Dutch oven. Heat up to the point of boiling and then simmer for 1-3 hours. If you use a slow cooker or crock pot, turn it to low and cook for 3 hours. Turn off the heat and remove the spices from the pot, straining if necessary. Add the rum or brandy for an alcoholic version of the cider. Serve it warm, garnished with sliced oranges and a fresh cinnamon stick in each cup. 

To find out more about the Five-Ingredient Mysteries, including Crypt Suzette, visit Maya’s: 
Amazon Author Page:

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Interview with Author Linwood Barclay

Sharon Long recently caught up with author Linwood Barclay to discuss his latest thriller, Elevator Pitch. Let's see what he had to say.

Your book jacket mentions that your thriller does for elevators what Psycho did for showers and Jaws did for the beach. What are your thoughts on this description, should we be afraid to ride in an elevator?  

No more, I suppose, than when we step into the shower or go to the beach. But what Psycho and Jaws did was take familiar places — ones we did not previously have reason to fear — and make them terrifying. I’m hoping that’s what I have accomplished with Elevator Pitch. I’m going to make you rethink something you might use every day, see its potential to scare the wits out of you. 

“Elevator Pitch” has such a unique premise. I have to know, where did your inspiration come from?

I would love to say the idea came to me when I was trapped in an elevator, but the truth is, I had heard a report on the evening news that Toronto did not have enough elevator inspectors. And the idea was just there: a serial killer who sabotages elevators throughout Manhattan.

Readers like to know how their favorite authors write.  Do you finish one book before starting another or do you have several projects going at the same time?

When I am in the thick of writing a book, that’s the only book I’m in the thick of writing. But that doesn’t mean I won’t have to switch gears to proofread another, or work on a television project that has an urgent deadline, or write a short story I’ve promised to someone. 

What is the nicest fan email/letter you have received?

I had a wonderful email a few weeks ago from a woman who said her grown son, a very successful guy, had never been a reader. I think it may have been dyslexia-related. But he read No Time for Goodbye, loved it, and now was reading all my books. That was pretty gratifying. 

I know authors are also readers, what is in your To Be Read pile?

The new Robert Crais, the new Laura Lippman, the new Richard Russo. 

Do you have a favorite mystery author?

No writer made a greater impression on me than Ross Macdonald (real name, Kenneth Millar), author of the Lew Archer novels. 

Who is the one author, past or present, you would love to have dinner with?

When I was 21, I got to have dinner with my favourite writer on the planet, the aforementioned Ross Macdonald. So, dream achieved. But I’d love to go out for wings with Stephen King.

For our readers, what are you working on next?

I thought I knew. I’ve finished a thriller that’s a bit more Michael Crichton-ish, about a test community of self-driving cars where a virus gets introduced into the system, and the vehicles become homicidal. But I just got another idea I think is so good I should do it now while it’s fresh in my head. So, I’m not sure which book will be next. I’m also working on a possible TV adaptation of my Promise Falls trilogy. Fingers crossed that happens. 

Many thanks to Linwood Barclay for taking the time to chat with us. To read a review of Elevator Pitch on Mystery Playground CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Review: Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay

Linwood Barclay has a new novel and Sharon Long is here today with her review. 

Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay releases on September 17, in hardcover, by William Morrow. Linwood is the best-selling author of 18 novels and 2 children’s books. His latest is a suspense thriller revolving around elevator incidents in metro NYC. I’ve read and enjoyed several of Linwood’s books and was anxious to read this one. 

The story opens on a Monday morning, where four people are waiting for an elevator at Lansing Tower in NY City. An elevator comes and the four get on, pressing floors 33, 34 and 37. The elevator shoots past all three of the floors chosen, going to the 40th floor instead, but the doors don't open. The riders start to panic when the elevator starts again. The elevator again skips floors 37, 34 and 33, this time stopping at 29. Suddenly, there’s a loud noise above, and then the elevator plunges in a free fall straight to the ground.

Across the city, Detective Jerry Bourque and Lois Delgado are called to the scene of a dead male whose body was discovered by an early morning jogger. The body’s face is badly beaten and the fingertips on both hands are missing. Upon further examination of the body, they note that the man was wearing novelty socks.  

On Tuesday, there is another devastating elevator incident, this time in a 30-story apartment tower called the Sycamore Residences. On Wednesday, another tragic elevator incident. As the detectives make some headway on the identification of the unknown body, they start to wonder if the murder is somehow linked to the elevator accidents plaguing the city.  

This is a fast-paced read, and it honestly made me glad I don't ride in an elevator on a regular basis. Elevator Pitch involves greed, murder, secrets, politics, and the consequences of prior actions long forgotten. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am curious to see if this is the beginning of a possible series with Detectives Bourque and Delgado.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

First in a Series: The Corpse with the Silver Tongue by Cathy Ace

The Fabulous Cathy Ace joins us today for a special Drinks with Reads: the inaugural entry in our First in a Series profiles. This is where we introduce the first book in a series so you can keep reading and reading through the great adventures of one set of characters. Cathy was one of our first guests on Mystery Playground when we started way back in 2012, so we thought we'd start her off here too with the first book in her Cait Morgan series, The Corpse with a Silver Tongue. And the series is on flash sale this week electronically...

It’s such a thrill to be invited to participate in Mystery Playground’s Friday Drinks with Reads. I’ve been able to celebrate the launch of most of my books here – but I’ll admit I didn’t know of the site’s existence when my debut novel was launched, which is why you won’t find an entry for the very first Cait Morgan Mystery, THE CORPSE WITH THE SILVER TONGUE, in the archives. 

It’s almost impossible to remember a time when Cait Morgan wasn’t part of my life…some who know me might say this is because she’s very much like me (I couldn’t possibly comment!) but it’s also true that she was “born” in a short story back in 2007, and has been with me constantly since then; there are now eight novels in the series.

I always wanted Cait to travel the world solving traditional – as opposed to specifically cozy – mysteries, of the type Agatha Christie used to give us. I always loved the Poirot and Marple books set in “exotic” locations, and I wanted Cait’s adventures to take her to places where the history, art, architecture, food and drink are fascinating. I’ve been a bit of a nomad throughout my life, so she gets to visit a different country in each book – each being somewhere I have either lived, worked, or have spent at least several months, if not years, in total. 

So, why did I choose Nice, in the south of France, for her first novel? Honestly, I love it, and I miss it. I used to spend three or four months a year there and was delighted that friends of mine allowed me to “use” their home as the setting for the sudden death (OK…you guessed it…it’s a murder!) at a birthday party which sits at the core of the book. Writing it allowed me to “be there” again, though, sadly, without the unique light of the Cote d’Azur illuminating my laptop. (If you want to know why there’s a cast iron snail in the photo, you’ll have to read the book!)

What makes this appearance here today even more special is that it gives me the chance to share some exciting news: I have just reacquired all the publishing rights for my Cait Morgan books (except the English print rights), which means I can now control their digital availability and pricing. So – drum roll please – I can tell you that the prices for ALL the digital Cait Morgan Mysteries have been dropped to $4.99 USD (or equivalent). 

While you’re reading THE CORPSE WITH THE SILVER TONGUE, you can enjoy Cait Morgan’s favourite tipple. It’s not fancy, but it is quite specific. She adores Bombay Sapphire gin…yes, specifically Bombay Sapphire. Now I know there are a good many gins out there these days, and – of course – you might have your own gin-of-choice, but with a good tonic (something “plain and normal” like Schweppes, as opposed to one of the myriad available with added flavours) and a good quality lemon – one that feels heavy, so is likely to be really juicy (roll the lemon before cutting into it to get those juices moving!) there’s nothing quite like a straightforward Bombay Sapphire and tonic! This is how Cait enjoys hers:

Fill a large glass with ice
Squeeze a thick slice of lemon that you’ve cut into two over the ice and drop it in
Pour over ONE part Bombay Sapphire gin, then THREE parts tonic water
Stir slowly for a moment or two, allowing the ice to chill the drink
Enjoy! Cheers, folks!

(NB: yes, some gin was drunk during the shooting of this photograph!)

Here are links to more of Cathy's wonderful Drinks with Reads posts:

To find out more about The Cait Morgan Mysteries, and Cathy Ace:

Twitter: @AceCathy
Sign up for Cathy’s newsletter at her website.

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Hunting Party and a Rusty Nail

It's been a hot summer, so I thought I'd try and cool off with a snowy thriller by Lucy Foley.

In The Hunting Party, group of friends spends New Years in a remote hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands. They've been getting together for years and many of their relationships go back to their days at Oxford, where they met as students.

Emotions run high, old resentments resurface, and one of the friends does not live through to the New Year. It's clear that someone at the lodge is the murderer, but which one?

The Hunting Party is a great closed universe thriller where the characters are stranded in a remote place (much like And Then There Were None) and it's clear that one of them is the killer. 

If you're an audio book fan, you can't go wrong with the audio version of this book. It's read by 5 different people, each playing a character whose point of view we experience in the book. The accents are wonderful and the actors really portray the essence of each character. 

I chose a Rusty Nail to go with The Hunting Party for two reasons. First, I needed something to sip on to keep me warm while I read about the snowy countryside, and second, with a book set in the remotest area of the Scottish Highlands, it just had to contain Scotch.

The Rusty Nail
2 ounces of Scotch
3/4 ounce Drambuie

Add Scotch and Drambuie to a cocktail mixer filled with ice. Stir to chill and then pour into a rocks glass and enjoy.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Review: Too Close by Natalie Daniels

Natalie Daniels just published a new novel and Kerry Hammond is here with her review.

Too Close by Natalie Daniels was published on July 30, in Trade Paperback, by Harper Paperbacks. The book is described as a haunting psychological thriller about a woman who is accused of a crime and a psychiatrist who is trying to unravel the truth. I was intrigued.

Emma is a psychiatrist who has been tasked with trying to get through to Connie, who is being held in a psychiatric hospital after attempting to end her own life. Emma gains Connie's trust and begins to unravel the events that led up to the fateful day, but the story is way more complicated than she initially expects. Connie may not remember what happened, but she is more astute that Emma expects; she sees that Emma hides her own feelings of inadequacy behind the facade of her profession.

I often start a book, thinking it's a mystery, only to find out later that it's not. There are no dead bodies, no murder investigation, and no criminals are unmasked. It can be quite disappointing when you are expecting all of those elements and you get none of them. I started this book thinking it might be a mystery, but by the time I realized it wasn't, I didn't even care. I was drawn in by the characters, mesmerized by the writing, and captivated by the story.

I liked Daniels' writing style and her keen observations about human nature are all too real. Her portrayal of her characters' inner thoughts, fears, and inadequacies are raw and disturbingly accurate. I look forward to what the author will come up with next.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Review: Killing with Confetti by Peter Lovesey

Kerry Hammond is here to review a new-to-her author and his 18th book in a popular series.

Killing with Confetti by Peter Lovesey is the 18th book in the Detective Peter Diamond mystery series. It was published on July 9, in Hardcover, by Soho Crime. I was a bit skeptical about starting a series on book 18, but I have heard great things about both the author and the series, so I decided to bite the proverbial bullet and just dive right in. 

In Killing With Confetti, Joe Diamond is recruited by the Deputy Chief Constable to handle security duty of sorts. You see, the DCC's son is getting married, and his wife-to-be is the daughter of notorious crime boss, Joe Irving. There is no shortage of criminals who would love to see Joe dead, and the DCC fears that one will take advantage of the fact that he is scheduled to be at the wedding. 

Diamond is not pleased to have to babysit a crime boss, but feels he has no choice. His bodyguard duty soon turns into a murder investigation and he finally feels like he can do what he does best, catch a killer.

I absolutely loved Peter Diamond. He's a no nonsense policeman and Lovesey is a no nonsense writer. I felt like I was watching an episode of a British crime series and enjoyed every minute of it. I completely forgot that I had jumped in at book 18. The book stood on its own and could have been a standalone novel. I didn't feel like I was missing backstory and none was even offered. It was just an entertaining installment that was all about the crime and the crime solving.

There's a quote on the cover of my copy of the book by Sara Paretsky and it reads, "I'm jealous of everyone discovering Lovesey and Diamond for the first time." So true, I feel lucky that I have 17 more books to immediately enjoy.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage.