Friday, October 20, 2017

The Double Cross Martini & The Last Mrs. Parrish

The sisters Constantine - Lynn & Val , who write under the name Liv Constantine, have just published their first novel, The Last Mrs. Parrish. Let's see what drink they've cooked up to match the book.

Our novel, THE LAST MRS. PARRISH, is set in the tony town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, where the only thing bigger than the houses are the bank accounts of its residents. Amber Patterson is tired of watching from the sidelines while these pampered women get everything they want. She decides it’s her turn, and sets her sights on Jackson Parrish. So what that he’s someone else’s husband? She hatches a plan to get close to his wife, Daphne, with the intent of taking over her glamorous life. 

Amber arranges an “accidental” meeting at the gym, where she pretends to have lost her sister to Cystic Fibrosis, the same disease that claimed the life of Daphne’s sister. Over coffee, Amber sets the trap. “Amber leaned forward and did her best to look interested while she calculated the total worth of diamonds on Daphne’s ears, the tennis bracelet on her wrist, and the huge diamond on her tanned and perfectly manicured finger. She must have had at least a hundred-grand walking around on her size four body, and all she could do was whine about her sad childhood.”    

Before long, Amber is Daphne’s co-chair on the Cystic Fibrosis fundraiser committee, where she insinuates herself into Daphne’s good graces. Their “shared grief” bonds them, and soon Amber is Daphne’s closest friend. As the story progresses, a secret from Amber’s past threatens to destroy all her plans. Will she succeed in becoming The Last Mrs. Parrish or will she get what she deserves?

The Double Cross Martini is what everyone is drinking in Bishops Harbor. It’s deliciously duplicitous, sneaks up on you, and packs a potent punch. Best of all— it’s low-carb so you will still fit into your designer jeans the next day. But be careful, you never know what might happen after you down a few.

Double Cross Martini Recipe

Double Cross Vodka
Malibu Passion
Pineapple Juice
Peach Juice
Splash of Grenadine
Garnish with orange

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express Train Cake

We're getting ready for our Murder on the Orient Express Party to celebrate the new movie. What better dessert than a train, made out of cake, so Kerry, Sharon, Lorraine and I all got together to make it happen. 

- train cake mold
- flour spray to get the cake out of the mold
- black cake paint (we got ours from Michaels)
- Coconut flakes for snow
- Chocolate chips for the stacks
- Gold icing for the light
- Black icing to help coal and stacks stay in place
- Black sugar balls for the coal ( we got ours at Michaels)
- large tray to seat the cake on
- Foil covered cookie sheet

We made our cake using the Williams Sonoma Train Cake mold (many can be found on eBay).

Step One:
Make the cake. William Sonoma recommends the following recipe for the train cake: 

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract


Have all the ingredients at room temperature. Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 350°F. Grease and flour the wells of a railway cake pan and spray with flour spray. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sour cream, eggs and vanilla until combined. Fit the mixer with the flat beater. Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture and beat on the lowest speed until the dry ingredients are moistened, 15 to 20 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Divide the batter in half and set half of it aside. 

Spoon the remaining batter evenly among the prepared wells. Tap the pan firmly on the countertop to release any air bubbles. To ensure good details on the cakes, spread the batter so it reaches the top edges of each well and is slightly lower in the center of the well. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes.Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then invert the cakes onto the rack and let cool for at least 1 hour before decorating or serving. Wash and thoroughly dry the pan. Grease and flour the wells and repeat with the remaining batter. Makes 18 cakes.

Step Two:
Cover the tray with coconut flakes so it looks like snow.

Step Three:
Spray paint your train car cakes. We used the foil covered cookie sheet underneath the cakes so we would't make a mess. You can use plates because the spray is edible, but it's one more thing to clean. 

Step Four:
Add a little black icing on top of coal cars and then add the black balls at the tops. The icing will help the balls stay in place.

Step Five:
Add a dab of icing on top of the smoke stacks and add chocolate chips.  

Step Six:
Take your gold icing and put it over the light on the front of the engine. 

And now you have a beautiful train cake for your fabulous party. Check out our Murder on the Orient Express sandwiches.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mary Rose by Geoffrey Girard

Fall has arrived, Halloween is just around the corner, and Kerry Hammond is here to review a ghost story to keep you up at night.

Mary Rose by Geoffrey Girard released in Paperback on October 17 from Adaptive Books. I was fascinated by the backstory of this book. It was based on a ghost story written by J. M. Barrie, best known as the creator of Peter Pan. Barrie wrote Mary Rose as a play in 1920 and Alfred Hitchcock attempted to adapt the story into a film but it never got off the ground. I was extremely excited to see how Girard would put a modern day spin on such a story.

Mary Rose Morland and Simon Blake are a successful Philadelphia couple. They’re in love and Simon is ready to pop the question. Before he proposes, however, they travel to England where Mary Rose grew up in order for Simon to ask her father for her hand in marriage. While there, Simon learns of an event in Mary Rose’s childhood where she disappeared for thirty-three days on a remote island. After this time, she showed up with no memory of the lost time and no visible scars. The details of her disappearance were never understood and Simon decides that he needs to understand what happened to her. They travel to the remote area of her disappearance and Simon’s obsession with the truth gets even stronger as he sees the effect the location has on his fiancĂ©. It makes you wonder if some things are better left undiscovered.

I was drawn into the book immediately. I loved Girard’s writing style and found myself wondering why I hadn’t read this author before. His descriptions were wonderful and made me feel like I was right there; I was immersed in the story being played out in front of me. It was chilling and wonderful, a great book that is best enjoyed with the light on.

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

Bespoke Olympia Le Tan Book Clutches

We should file this in the crazy Christmas present department...for the paltry sum of $45,000, you can get a trip to Paris to meet book purse designer, Olympia Le Tan, who will design six book clutches for you over the course of a year. It's all courtesy of Neiman Marcus and their Christmas Fantasy Gifts. Other Fantasy Gifts include a party for 300 above Time Square for New Year's Eve and a specially commissioned Rolls Royce. 

The handbags Olympia makes for you will be custom made and reflect your input so you could have book purses for all your favorite mystery novels. 

While I do love the Rebecca clutch above, which retails for $1840, I tend to spend my hard earned capital in other ways, but these are super fun.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Halloween Book Club with Snacks: A Catered Costume Party by Isis Crawford

Lorraine Masonheimer has been working on a delicious book club party for us with tasty treats, yummy drinks and a delightfully frightful Halloween inspired cozy mystery...

On a gorgeous fall day in the woods, a woman stands at the Hudson River’s edge taking in the autumn colors. Her killer is nearby thinking “third time’s the charm” as two previous attempts flopped big time. After bashing her with a pipe, the killer checks to see if his manicure survived the murder as his hands weren’t meant for killing.  

In honor of his wife’s disappearance and possible death, Darius Witherspoon moves forward with the annual costume Halloween party—his wife Penelope’s favorite holiday event.  In step the Simmons sisters, caterers by profession and amateur sleuths on the side. As the party approaches, Darius hands a sealed envelope to the ladies, Bernie and Libby, instructing them to open the envelope should he end up dead. Chandeliers sparkle, hardwood floors gleam and the French doors open to welcome the scents of the garden indoors. Masked and costumed guests arrive to a fog-laden ballroom floor with cocktails, appetizers and a hearty fall-themed buffet.

When Darius is found swinging from a rope outside the ballroom’s French doors, the sisters set out to expose the killer despite the Police Chief’s belief it was a suicide. When the body count increases the sisters find links between past crimes, the posh upstate New York Berkshire Arms property, hidden treasure and treachery.  

This light-hearted affable story is the 13th book in Isis Crawford’s Catered series. No need to read the books in order as the narrative holds up on its own. The solution is revealed late in the book and will keep the pages turning.  The sister’s distinct personality differences play well off each other. Their father, a former police officer, lends plausibility.  
The Halloween setting complete with real ghosts, a murder of crows, top hat skeletons, a treasure hunt and sumptuous food and drinks makes for a festive autumn read. Given the sisters own a bakery in addition to a catering business, I could almost smell freshly baked scones, spiced nuts baking in the oven and trays of colorful fall food.

Halloween is coming. Grab a serving tray, set out your glassware and throw your own posh party. Go all out. Invite guests to don their best costumes and bring their favorite Halloween appetizer or dessert to share. Decorate as the book describes using black crows and ghosts. Dress a skeleton with a top hat and orange scarf holding the sign “Welcome to Hell” and set outside the front door. As a nod to the book, place a crow on each shoulder of the skeleton.  Readers of the book will step into the house with a chuckle.  Set the table with an orange tablecloth, dusty pink gerbera daisies with green foliage and red plates. Scatter chocolate coins between trays. Rent a dry ice fog machine placed just inside the front door. Serve up a signature cocktail, a book-themed appetizer and let the tricks-and-treats party hardy.

Blood Orange Martini
2 oz. Blood Orange Vodka (EFFEN)
1 oz. Pomegranate Liqueur (PAMA)
1 oz. Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice (TROPICANA or PURE found in liquor stores)

   Orange twist & black sanding sugar, optional
Run an orange slice around the rim of a chilled glass and dip in black sanding sugar.  Combine the vodka, pomegranate liqueur and grapefruit juice in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice.  Shake to chill.  Strain into the prepared martini glass.  Garnish with an orange twist.

For a non-alcohol drink, serve Blood Orange Italian Soda which can be found at Whole Foods or online.  The skeleton-shaped shot glass and skeleton hand champagne glass is available at Pottery Barn.

‘Welcome to Hell’ Skeleton Cheese Bites

Provolone Cheese, slice (any white cheese will work)
Colby Jack Cheese, slice
Sopressata Dry Salami, slice
Dark Pumpernickel Bread, slice

Print the template or draw a skeleton with top hat and scarf and cut out. Place the skeleton onto the dark bread and cut the shape out. Repeat using the Provolone cheese. Using the template, cut off the top hat and the scarf then cut out the skeleton’s eyes, nose and mouth. Place the skeleton template onto the Provolone cheese and carefully cut out the eyes, nose and mouth. Place the top hat template onto the salami and cut out. Place the scarf template onto the Colby Jack cheese and cut out.  

Place the bread onto the tray. Top the bread with the Provolone cheese. Place the salami on top of the Provolone slice to become the top hat. Seat the Colby Jack cheese on top of the Provolone slice to become the orange scarf and serve.

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

1 ¼ lb Cashews, salted
2T Rosemary, fresh and coarsely chopped
½ t Cayenne pepper
2 t Brown sugar
2t Salt
1T Butter, melted

Preheat oven to 3750. Place the cashews onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes until the cashews are warm and fragrant. Combine the rosemary, pepper, sugar, salt and melted butter in a large bowl. Toss the warm nuts with the rosemary mixture until the nuts are completely coated. Serve warm.

Monday, October 16, 2017

2017 Anthony Award Winners

The Anthony Awards were given out at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Toronto, Canada this weekend and we have all the winners. More great stories to add to the TBR pile. I'm proud to have a story included in the winning anthology - Blood on the Bayou


Best Novel
A Great Reckoning – Louise Penny [Minotaur] 

Best First Novel
IQ – Joe Ide [Mulholland]

Best Paperback Original
Heart of Stone – James W. Ziskin [Seventh Street] 

Best Short Story 
"Oxford Girl" – Megan Abbott, Mississippi Noir [Akashic]

Best Critical Nonfiction Work
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life – Ruth Franklin [Liveright]

Best Children’s/YA Novel
The Girl I Used to Be – April Henry [Henry Holt] 

Best Anthology
Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016 – Greg Herren, ed. [Down & Out]

Best Novella (8,000-40,000 words)

The Last Blue Glass – B.K. Stevens, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, April 2016 [Dell]

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Macavity Awards

The 2017 Macavity Awards, named after TS Elliot, were awarded at Bouchercon this weekend by Janet Rudolph and Mystery Readers International. We have all the nominees and winners listed below. It's a great list of wonderful works to add to your TBR pile. Congratulations to all who were nominated. 
Best Novel:
Louise Penny: A Great Reckoning (Minotaur)
  • Megan Abbott: You Will Know Me (Little, Brown)
  • Matt Coyle: Dark Fissures (Oceanview)
  • Noah Hawley: Before the Fall (UK, Hodder & Stoughton; US, Grand Central Publishing)
  • Mick Herron: Real Tigers (UK, John Murray; US, Soho)
  • Laura Lippman: Wilde Lake (Wm. Morrow)

Best First Novel:
Joe Ide: IQ (Mulholland Books)
  • Fiona Barton: The Widow (UK, Bantam; US, NAL)
  • Flynn Berry: Under the Harrow (Penguin)
  • Bill Beverly: Dodgers (No Exit Press)
  • Renee Patrick: Design for Dying (Forge)
Best Short Story:
Art Taylor: “Parallel Play” (Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning, Wildside Press)
  • Lawrence Block: “Autumn at the Automat” (In Sunlight or in Shadow, Pegasus Books)
  • Craig Faustus Buck: “Blank Shot” (Black Coffee, Darkhouse Books)
  • Greg Herren: “Survivor’s Guilt” (Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016, Down & Out Books)
  • Paul D. Marks: “Ghosts of Bunker Hill” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Dec. 2016)
  • Joyce Carol Oates: “The Crawl Space” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Sept.-Oct. 2016)
Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel:
James W. Ziskin: Heart of Stone (Seventh Street Books)
  • Susanna Calkins: A Death Along the River Fleet  (Minotaur)
  • Lyndsay Faye: Jane Steele  (UK: Headline Review; US, G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
  • Edith Maxwell: Delivering The Truth  (Midnight Ink)
  • Catriona McPherson: The Reek of Red Herrings (US: Minotaur; UK: Houghton Stodder)
  • Ann Parker: What Gold Buys (Poisoned Pen Press)
Best Nonfiction:
Margaret Kinsman: Sara Paretsky: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction (McFarland)

  • Jane K. Cleland: Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot: How to Write Gripping Stories that Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats  (Writer’s Digest Books)
  • Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (Liveright Publishing)
  • David J. Skal: Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula (Liveright Publishing)
  • Kate Summerscale: The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer (Penguin)