Monday, July 31, 2017

Mystery Playground Recommends: Karin Slaughter

Today we're starting a new series called Mystery Playground Recommends. This is when one of our team chooses an author who's work they love to recommend as a body of work, rather than just one book. Kerry Hammond kicks if off today with an ode to the work of Karin Slaughter. 

Karin Slaughter is the author of seventeen novels. She started her career with the Grant County series, featuring pediatrician and part-time coroner Sara Linton. There are six books in this series and prior to writing the last book in the series, Beyond Reach, she began a brand new series featuring Will Trent. There are eight books in the Will Trent series and the most recent, The Kept Woman, was published in 2016. The two series have experienced a crossover; a character from Grant County has entered Will Trent’s world. Readers of both have delighted in the commingling and continuation of one of the best characters Grant County had to offer.

In addition to writing about Grant County and Will Trent, Slaughter intermixes some of the most suspense filled standalone novels you’ll ever read. The most recent, The Good Daughter, was perhaps her best book yet. Stay tuned on Mystery Playground for a review of the book, which releases from publisher Harper Collins on August 8.

Slaughter is a gifted storyteller who never seems to run out of ideas. Her plots have twists and turns and the reader is guaranteed a surprise when the final page is turned. The characters she creates are well-developed and realistic, although you sometimes wish the “bad guys” were a little less so. If you lock your door and leave the light on, you will have no problem finishing any of her books.

Slaughter’s books aren’t beach reads, nor are they light and fluffy. But if you’re ready for an intense ride and a satisfying read, she is definitely an author to try.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

So, What's a Cat Cafe Anyway?

Author Cat Conte joins us today to talk about her new cozy mystery, Cat About Town, and cat cafes. Cate Conte is the alter ego of Liz Mugavero. Liz is the author of the Pawsitively Organic Mystery series from Kensington Books, the first of which was an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel. She is a member of Sisters in Crime National, Sisters in Crime New England, Mystery Writers of America, and the Cat Writers’ Association. She currently lives in Connecticut.

Before we get started, here's a description of the novel. 

The first novel in a frisky new mystery series set in a small New England town, where an unlikely citizen is called in to solve the purrfect crime. . .

Maddie James has arrived in Daybreak Island, just off the coast of Massachusetts, eager to settle down and start her own businessand maybe even fall in love. When a stray orange tabby pounces into her life, she’s inspired to open a cat cafĂ©. But little does Maddie know that she’s in for something a lot more catastrophic when her new furry companion finds the dead body of the town bully. Now all eyes are on Maddie: Who is this crazy cat-whisperer lady who’s come to town? If pet-hair-maintenance and crime-fighting weren’t keeping her busy enough, Maddie now has not one but two eligible bachelors who think she’s the cat’s pajamas . . . and will do anything to win her heart. But how can she even think about happily-ever-after while a killer remains on the looseand on her path?

And here's Cat Conte...

Cat lovers are a dedicated bunch. In exchange for love and purrs, we understand the tradeoff of scooping cat litter, cleaning up the odd pile of cat vomit, and sometimes even finding “surprises” in the form of small animal corpses.

Still, there’s not much we wouldn’t do for our furry friends. But what about those who love cats but can’t have them, perhaps because of where they live, or not being home enough to care for them properly?

This is where a cat cafe comes in. 

A what, you ask? 

A cat cafe is like a coffee shop, but with cats AND coffee. And pastries. And while you’re having your snack, you can hang out with a cat or two. No pressure, no hidden costs, no guilt when you leave. Well, maybe some guilt, but it’s totally unfounded. Because the cats live at the cafes with the entire stash of coffee at their disposal. 

The cats come from local rescue organizations that decided to partner with the cafes. That means people can adopt them if they’d like. 

The first one originated in Japan in 1998, and over the years, they’ve migrated to the US, typically in urban areas. New York, San Francisco, Boston—they’re now more common than not, and gaining in popularity.

Perfect for the setting of a mystery series, no?

And that's how the Cat Cafe Mysteries came about. But, with a twist. 

Instead of in the middle of a city, my series takes place on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. Weird place for a cat cafe, you might say. 

But not really.

Think about it. 

My fictional island is a major tourist draw, and it attracts the rich and famous. Most of these people stay for a long period of time. And many of them, or their kids, miss their cats and would love to spend a few minutes hugging one and hanging out with them. Also, on my island, there’s a need to have more people rescuing animals. The local rescue organization closed, and there's only the town pound. That’s not a fun place for the cats to hang out. So my character, Maddie, is doing a really good deed. And having fun doing it. 
But first, she has decided to move back to the island from the west coast, where she’s been living and running a juice shop. And then there’s the small matter of a murder and a family crisis…

Cat is here courtesy of Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. You can visit the other stops on the tour here:

July 26 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW
July 26 – View from the Birdhouse – SPOTLIGHT
July 26 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – INTERVIEW
July 27 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW
July 27 – A Cozy Experience – REVIEW
July 28 – Bibliophile Reviews – REVIEW  
July 28 – Bookworm Cafe – REVIEW
July 28 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
July 29 – Jane Reads – REVIEW
July 29 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
July 29 – A Blue Million Books – INTERVIEW
July 30 – Mystery Playground – GUEST POST
July 30 – A Holland Reads – GUEST POST
July 30 – Readeropolis – SPOTLIGHT
July 31 – Melina’s Book Blog – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST
July 31 – The Power of Words – REVIEW
August 1 – Queen of All She Reads – REVIEW
August 1 – Mochas, Mysteries and Meows – REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW
August 2 – Socrates’ Book Review – REVIEW
August 2 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – REVIEW
August 2 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW
August 3 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW, INTERVIEW
August 3 – Book Babble – REVIEW
August 3 – Island Confidential – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
August 4 – Jersey Girl Book Reviews – REVIEW
August 4 – Brooke Blogs – REVIEW
August 4 – MysteriesEtc – REVIEW

Cat About Town is out August 1. 

Rafflecopter Code: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fatal Reservations and the Mojito

Here's another Drinks with Reads blast from the past from back in 2015. Lucy Burdette (AKA Roberta Isleib) matching her cozy mystery, Fatal Reservations, with the Mojito. 

Perfect for a summer day. 

Before I began spending half the year in Key West, I had never tasted a Mojito, never mind made one. But now it's my new favorite drink. What spells tropical paradise better than the combination of lemons, limes, mint, and rum? Add a splash of bitters and a Key West mystery and you’re on vacation—but without the hassle of airports, freeways, and bank-busting expenses!

Ingredients for one mojito

  • 1 lime, sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 4 to 5 sprigs fresh mint 
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 to 2 ounces rum, depending on how strong you want the drink
  • Club soda
  • Ice
  • Bitters 

Start by crushing several slices of lime, several slices of lemon, the mint, and 2 teaspoons of sugar in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass. Add the rum and stir. Fill the glass with ice. Cover the ice with club soda. Mix all that together and add a splash of bitters on top.

About FATAL RESERVATIONS: Food critic Hayley Snow sets aside her knife and fork when her dear friend Lorenzo the tarot card reader is accused of murdering his flaming-fork-juggling nemesis. If Lorenzo could read his own cards, he might draw The Hanged Man. He can only hope that Hayley draws Justice as she tries to clear him of murder.

“This strong series continues a unique blend of island mayhem and sparkling characters surrounding a layered mystery.”— Booklist 

About Lucy: Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) is the author of 14 mysteries, including FATAL RESERVATIONS, the sixth in the Key West series featuring food critic Hayley Snow. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She's a past president of Sisters in Crime. Like her food critic character in the Key West series, she is passionate about food.

You can read more about the books on Lucy’s website. Follow her on Facebook, or Twitter @LucyBurdette, or Pinterest, or Instagram.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Clock Work Dynasty with #Rum & #Sugar

To celebrate the release of The Clock Work Dynasty, author Daniel Wilson has been researching beverages that Sir Francis Drake may have sampled during his lifetime. (Doesn't the book have a fabulous cover?) Take it away Daniel...

At the heart of my new novel is a simple idea that I have always loved—the notion that maybe the greatest triumphs of humanity aren’t ahead of us, but behind.

The Clockwork Dynasty acknowledges that our ancestors had incredible technological triumphs—and imagines that some of them are still walking among us, machines disguised as people, older than cities. These avtomat (a Russian word for robot) are fighting their own ancient wars in the shadows, even as they quietly go about shaping our civilization in the image of a world they lost millennia ago.


The novel roams from blood-soaked battlefields of prehistoric China to the Russian imperial courts of the 1600s to the filthy cobblestoned streets of baroque period London. 

In other words, cocktails weren’t invented yet. 

Just a bit of scrambling around online, however, produces evidence of a cocktail that predates all others, the first—and therefore the most appropriate beverage to be pretend-consumed by an ancient automat casually blending in with human beings.

According to legend*, El Draque—the world’s oldest cocktail—was invented out of necessity by the British naval officer (slash privateer), Sir Francis Drake. In the late 1500s, stranded somewhere near Havana, Drake was in trouble. His ships were heavy with plunder commandeered from Spanish galleons—but his men too sick to sail away.

Just like Sir Drake, the characters in The Clockwork Dynasty are on an epic, sprawling exploration of a mysterious world where the maps are unfinished and where monsters still roam. In the novel, however, our familiar history is haunted by nearly immortal robots who revere and fear humanity while being superior to it. 

As the storyline alternates between the past and present, we witness these humanlike robots secretly serving the great empires of antiquity and, centuries later, struggling to survive as they finally begin to run out of power. And as the modern-day survivors cannibalize each other for energy, a human scientist will risk her life to help find the origin of the machine race, and the key to saving it.

Luckily, Sir Drake found a solution to save the day from the local Taino and Ciboney Indians—a drink, of course. They recommended a wondrous rum-based elixir, replete with mint to soothe the stomach, lime to beat back the scurvy, and chuhuhuasi tree bark soaked in rum for an array of stimulating effects. Drake threw in a little sugar, and his men were streaking back to England with their loot in no time.

Ingredients: 1 lime; 2oz white rum; 6 mint leaves; 2 tsp sugar.

You might recognize this as a precursor to the mojito, but it will keep you plundering all the same. First, slice up a lime and muddle it with mint and sugar. Next, add a healthy amount of rum. Finally, mount a heavily-armed naval expedition to the Caribbean and lead a group of rough types on a foray through the jungles of Cuba on the hunt for chuhuhuasi bark. Alternately, just tip the glass up and call it a day.

Your sailors will thank you if you do.

* * *

Daniel H. Wilson is a Cherokee citizen and author of the New York Times bestselling Robopocalypse and its sequel Robogenesis, as well as seven other books, including How to Survive a Robot Uprising, A Boy and His Bot, and Amped. He earned a PhD in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as Masters degrees in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. His next novel, The Clockwork Dynasty, will be released on August 1st, 2017. Wilson lives in Portland, Oregon.

On Twitter @danielwilsonPDX
On Facebook:

“The Legend of El Draque” was sourced from:

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express - Kimono Tree Topper

Every year Mystery Playground works on ornaments for a mystery-themed Christmas tree. And our theme this year is a salute to...Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. We do this in July so you have plenty of time to get your materials together and make your own for December. 

This week, Lorainne Masonheimer has come up with a fabulous tree topper reminiscent of one of the big clues in the book...the red kimono. 

12” x 12” red cardstock
Red silk-like material
Black silk-like material
Gold trim
Needle and gold thread
Black ribbon
Black self-adhesive pearls
One wooden craft stick  3/16” x 5 ½”
Glue dots
Multi-medium matte glue with brush
Small circle punch
One brad
X-acto blade
Stitch witchery glue
Iron with board

Step One:  Cone Base
Trace a 12” circle onto the red cardstock and cut out.  Measure and place a small mark at 6” to mark the center of the circle.  Off the center mark, measure 6½” and cut a straight line for a 6½” x 12” cone.  Cut the red material to 7½” x 13” and use glue dots to adhere the material to the paper.  The glue dots will hold the material in place until the multi medium matte glue is applied.  Take care to not stain the fabric by carefully brushing the multi medium matte glue underneath the material to permanently glue the material to the paper.  Press for a flat seam.

Bring the sides of the circle together pulling one end over the other to form a cone with about a 4” circle at the bottom.  Hold it together and make sure the lower ridge of both sides overlap as evenly as possible.  It doesn’t need to be perfectly flat as it will look straight on the tree.  Make small marks to indicate glue placement.  Place glue dots next to the marks, reform the cone and press to the glue.  While holding it together, punch a hole into the bottom corner of the top overlap as shown.  Insert a brad to firmly hold the cone’s shape.  Using the x-acto blade, make 2 slits opposite one another about 1” from the top of the cone.  Slide the wood craft stick through the cone with both sides equal in measure.  Brush multi medium matte glue along the seam of the cone, press and let dry. 

Step Two:  Cut Fabric
To create the Kimono, cut the red material using the following measurements:   Two sleeves are 5½” long x 3” wide, one center back panel is 7½” long x 4” wide, two outside panels are 5” long x 3” wide, one collar is 5” long x 1”.  To create the black panels, cut two middle panels to 6” long x 3” wide.  Cut the black ribbon to 19” long and set aside.  There will be 8 pieces of fabric.

Step Three:  Glue, Assemble & Embellish
Using Stitch Witchery Glue and an iron, hem each fabric piece following package directions.  Allow the glue strip to cool completely before pulling the paper off, folding the material over the glue and reapplying heat to fuse the fabric together.  Glue the bottom of the kimono sleeves together leaving a loop open at the top.  Each sleeve will measure about 2¼” wide by about 2½” long.  Hand sew the gold trim to the center of the back panel to form a dragon.  Glue the black panels to the center red panel at an angle as shown and glue the red outer panels to the black panels.

Using glue dots, wrap the collar around the tip of the cone and press into place.  Carefully brush multi medium matte glue under collar and press into place.  Take care to not place glue onto areas that will show as it will stain the fabric. 

Place glue dots onto the top of the wood craft stick.  Carefully press the kimono sleeves to the stick. To hold the back panel in place, run a line of glue dots down the seam of the back of the cone.  Press the back panel to the glue dots hiding the seam as shown.  Using the multi medium matte glue, carefully brush the back of the mid and outer panels and press to the cone.  Using small glue dots, adhere a 2 ¼” piece of black ribbon to the front of the kimono to form the obi (sash).  Fold the black ribbon in half, glue dot the edges, wrap it around the top of the kimono and glue dot to the cone.  If desired, place three medium sized black self-adhesive pearls onto the front bottom right of the kimono and two at the bottom of the obi as shown.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Little Boy Lost by J.D. Trafford

Author J.D. Trafford's new book is about to hit bookshelves and Kerry Hammond has had a sneak peak and is here to tell us all about it.

J.D. Trafford is the author of the three book series featuring the lawyer-gone-rogue—and possibly criminal—Michael Collins. Little Boy Lost strays from Trafford’s main character but not from his profession. Justin Glass is the attorney in this latest book, but Justin isn’t a high-powered lawyer from a big New York firm, he’s a street lawyer from St. Louis. A widower with a small daughter, he has just managed to pull himself out of a deep depression and tries as hard as he can to not rely on his well-known and powerful family.

The Glass family name holds a lot of power in St. Louis, and a long line of congressmen have preceded the humble street lawyer, but Justin just wants to practice law and help people. One day he is approached by a young girl who proposes to pay him in coins from a jar, all to find her missing brother. Unable to turn her away, and thinking he will make a cursory effort and then send her home, Justin does a little digging into her brother’s disappearance. He finds a long history of criminal offenses and trouble, but doesn’t find her brother. At least until the bodies of twelve teenagers are found buried in a grave.

Parents start to come out of the woodwork at the report of the found boys, parents who have also lost their sons. But none of them are going to the police, they are coming to Justin to find their children, having given up on any hope or confidence in the St. Louis Police Department.

Trafford is a wonderful storyteller. I instantly loved Justin Glass’s character and felt for him as he struggled to raise his daughter on his own, with a constant looming depression that was always just out of reach. Told through Glass’s point of view, it was like hearing him tell the story. As a reader, I was taken along on his inner struggle to get through each day and applauded him for still helping the families in need. I think Trafford is an author to take notice of and I hope to see many more great novels.