Monday, March 27, 2017

When the Grits Hit the Fan by Maddie Day

The third book in The Country Store Mystery series from Maddie Day comes out this week from Kensington. It's called When the Grits Hit the Fan. Maddie Day is the pseudonym of Edith Maxwell, who is up for two Agatha Awards this year under her own name - one for best historical novel (Delivering the Truth) and one for best short story (The Mayor and the Midwife). 

Kerry Hammond reviews When the Grits hit the fan today...

I love a good small town cozy mystery, so I was excited to try this series, even if I had to jump in at book three.

In the story our protagonist, Robbie, has opened her breakfast and lunch restaurant for evening meetings of the Indiana University’s Sociology Department as a favor to her graduate student friend, Lou. She starts to rethink her decision when Professor Charles Stilton starts trouble at the meeting, insulting not only Lou but other members of the department.

When Robbie and Lou go snowshoeing the morning after a particularly troubled meeting, they find Charles below the ice of a frozen lake. Due to his nasty personality, there are any number of people who might want him dead, and unfortunately for Lou, she’s one of them. Robbie tries to stay out of the police investigation, but when even more of her friends are suspected of the crime, she becomes determined to help clear them.

I had no trouble starting this series in the middle. The characters were easy to get to know and the backstories that I missed didn’t hinder my progress, rather they made me want to go back and start at book one to see how things got where they are. There weren’t any spoilers to the previous mysteries, which is great for me because I never guess whodunit and always enjoy the ride all the way to the end and the big reveal.

Maddie Day is the nom de plume of mystery author Edith Maxwell, who also writes the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Dispatches from Left Coast Crime III

We have one more dispatch from the Hawaiian exploits of David and Mary Putnam in Hawaii at Left Coast Crime in beautiful Hawaii. Here's Mary with the report...

I especially loved the very last comment of the panel called: "How Coauthors Cope: Lovey-dovey or strictly business?" with R. Franklin James (aka Rae James) (M)
Waverly Fitzgerald (aka Waverly Curtis)
Patricia Gussin
Rosemary Mild
D.V. Whytes

Honolulu author (and the brave co-chair volunteer to coordinate all the panels) Rosemary Mild ended the panel with one final comment describing her husband/co-author/co-chair Larry: "like the Energizer Bunny, only cuter!" Too cute!!

During Laurie King’s interview of Colin Cotterill, he talked about life in his “fishing village with Internet,” and how “when you interview people they tell you all kinds of things they won’t normally tell you.” Colin learned the nice couple who ran the store down the road weren’t actually married, in fact, he was a hit man she’d hired to kill her husband. Something had gone wrong so they’d fled to the tiny fishing village many years before. Colin made sure to never complain about less-than-fresh fruit or anything else at their store, ever again.

Rochelle Straub and Nancy Cole Silverman had the most colorful table at the banquet, and possibly the biggest smiles.

During the final panel, Lee Goldberg kept making fun of the nearly naked Parnell Hall (among others). Parnell said he’d come in from a swim to see it so the panel better be good! (It was.)

If you haven't read their other Left Coast Crime dispatches, you can check them out here and here. Don't forget to check out the excerpt from David's latest book, The Vanquished. It's gotten excellent reviews. 

Check out details of next year's Left Coast Crime Convention in Reno, NV. Guests of honor are William Kent Krueger and Naomi Hirohara. The Toastmaster is Todd Borg. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Grantchester Returns Tomorrow Night

Fan favorite Grantchester returns to PBS tomorrow night and Kerry Hammond is here to tell us how excited she is about the new episodes.

Grantchester is a PBS show based on a series of short stories by James Runcie called The Grantchester Mysteries, and season one of the show contained episodes that were based on the short stories. Sidney Chambers (played by James Norton) is an Anglican vicar who frequently helps his friend, Detective Inspector Geordie Keating (played by Robson Green) solve crimes.

The setting is the 1950s in the rural English village of Grantchester. The cast of characters is diverse: Sidney is a vicar that was in the Scots Guards during the war and experienced some horrific events that have caused him to sometimes drink excessively and be a bit brooding. Geordie is married with several children and is an overworked, sometimes gruff copper. Mrs. Maguire is Sidney’s religious and judgmental housekeeper. Amanda Kendall is Sidney’s close friend and the one that got away. Dickens is Sidney’s adorable black Labrador.


In season one, Sidney finds himself embroiled in all sorts of sticky messes. He reunites with a bunch of school chums when his sister gets engaged, only to be involved in a sticky jewelry theft. He rescues a parishioner from a burning building and then helps Geordie investigate the death of her husband. They even go to a Jazz Club and get involved in a murder. In the finale, Geordie gets shot, Sidney has flashbacks from the war and Amanda is about to marry another man. At the same time, an indiscretion causes Sidney to ruin his relationship with his girlfriend, Hildegard.

In season two, Sidney faces charges of sexual abuse, we realize that Amanda’s marriage is anything but happy, Sidney has a new girlfriend, Sidney and Geordie clash over a case and Amanda finds herself pregnant and leaves her husband seeking Sidney’s help.

What is in store for season three? We’ll have to tune in tomorrow to find out! 

You can find Kerry on Twitter @kerryhammond88 and Mystery Playground @MysteryPlaygrnd 

Friday, March 24, 2017

And Then There Were None and Murderer's Island Punch

Today's Drinks with Reads visits an island retreat with Agatha Christie to match her classic novel, And Then There Were None, with the perfect island beverage. 

What happens when ten people are invited to an island for a free vacation, just like any of those telemarketing sales calls offering your a free weekend at the beach if you go to their sales pitch, there's a catch here too. But I'm not going to tell you what the catch is, in case you don't already know the story. But I will tell you that that island is not safe for anyone. 

To match the island location with a warmer feel than what you find in the book we've created Murderer's Island Punch. 

Murderer's Island Punch

- 1 shot of Pimms No. Liquer
- 1 shot of Cucumber Vodka
- 2 cups Strawberry Lemonade (you can either buy it, or make your own)

Pour over ice, garnish with an orchid and prepare to defend yourself.

If you'd rather watch than read this week, check out this made for TV mini-series

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Natchez Mississippi Mud Hand Pie

Oooooooh... do we have a treat for you. Our creative baker, Lorraine Masonheimer, has been at it again, this time with a Mississipi Mud Pie to celebrate the release of the third book in Greg Isles' Natchez Trilogy. (You have to check out her NCIS cake here). This is just too awesome. 

Lorraine explains the concept behind her recipe: The pie is inspired by the Natchez Trilogy set in and around Mississippi. The hand print is painted the color of mud to represent corrupt, dirty hands gripping the State of Mississippi (the shape of which is cut out of the center of the hand).  The question mark is painted red to symbolize mystery and murder. Bourbon or rum is added to the filling of the pie to further root the pie in Mississippi’s bootlegging history as the “wettest dry state in the country.” 


Materials for Hand Decoration:

  • Handprint cutout
  • Question mark cutout
  • Mississippi State cookie cutter, 2” x 1 ¼” (
  • Paint brush (used only for food) 
  • Food Paste (Yellow, Red & Blue)
  • Ready Made Pie crust

STEP 1:  Create the Hand & Question Mark
To create the hand for the top of the Mississippi Mud Pie, draw an outline of a hand or print a royalty free copy from and cut out.  Size the hand to 6 ¼” from palm to middle finger.  Using word, type and print a question mark using the typeface Chiller, 170 points and cut out.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Use a small knife to cut the hand and question mark from a ready-made pie crust.  Place the Mississippi cookie cutter in the center of the hand, cut and remove the crust. 

Bake the hand and question mark for about 5 minutes until a light golden color.  In a disposable cup, mix 6 drops of yellow, ½-1 drop of red and a dab of blue food paste on the paint brush to the color of mud.  Brush lightly over the hand.  Rinse paint brush and brush 1 drop of red food paste over the question mark.  Touch up the fingers with a bit of red if desired.  Set aside. 

Materials for Crust and Filling:
40 Oreo Cookies or 9 Chocolate Graham Crackers
1/2 cup+ chopped pecans (extra for rimming the finished pie)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon or spiced rum
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs

STEP 2:  Make the Crust
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Pulse the cookies and pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Add the t tablespoons of melted butter and mix until moistened. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake until set, about 10 minutes, and let cool. 

STEP 3: Mix the Filling & Bake
Melt the stick of butter and chocolate in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour and salt until smooth. Stir in the sugar, corn syrup, bourbon and vanilla. Adding the eggs one at a time, stir until smooth. Pour the filling into the cooked crust and bake until set and cracked on top, about 30 minutes.  Cool about 2 hours (the pie will be slightly warm).

Ingredients for Topping:
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ to 1 tablespoon of bourbon, optional
4 tablespoons Mascarpone cheese 

STEP 4:  Fluff the Cream & Top
In the chilled bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a chilled whisk, beat the heavy cream, vanilla and bourbon until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Add mascarpone cheese and sprinkle confectioners' sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream over the top as shown.  Whipped cream can be kept covered in fridge for up to two hours. 

STEP 5:  Finishing Touches
Sprinkle finely chopped pecans around the edge of the pie.  Carefully place the hand in the center.  Drop the question mark into the center of the hand as shown.  Serve cold.  Pie is best served within 24 hours but can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.