Friday, August 31, 2018

California Sangria and A Case of Syrah, Syrah

Nancy J Parra AKA Nancy Coco AKA Nell Hampton joins us today on Drinks with Reads. Nancy is the author of over 25 published novels which include five mystery series: The Candy Coated Mysteries (Kensington), The Kensington Palace Mystery Series (Crooked Lane), The Wine Country Tours Mystery Series (Crooked Lane) The Gluten-free Baker’s Treat Mysteries (Berkley Prime Crime), and The Perfect Proposal Mysteries (Berkley Prime Crime).  Her writing has been called witty and her protagonists plucky by reviewers around the world.  Nancy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America and writes for the Killer Character Blog on the 8th of every month. 

I lived in Northern California for nearly two years right next to an orange grove. The air always held the scent of citrus. I loved going out and visiting obscure wineries in the area, learning about the tradition and tasting all the varieties. I love the concerts in the vineyards, open air yoga and wine tastings and that scent of ocean in the fog that rolled in overnight. That’s why I wrote the wine country tours mystery series to celebrate the quirkiness, joy and beauty that is northern California. In A Case of Syrah, Syrah, someone takes a yoga obsession one stretch too far. Enjoy this fast, fun read with a glass of Sangria on your back patio or at the beach.

Fruit- I chose oranges and limes
A mix of orange and lime juice
Extra fine sugar
A beautiful Syrah
Brandy (I tasted some wonderful warm brandies in California.)

Cut 1 orange into small pieces and remove the seeds. Cut 2 small limes into quarters, removing seeds. Place oranges and limes in a glass pitcher with ¾ cup of extra fine sugar (more or less to taste). Muddle for 45 seconds with a wooden spoon. Add ½ cup of orange juice and 1/4 cup of lime juice, 1/3 cup of brandy (or more to taste). Add the wine and stir to incorporate. Add one cup of ice to chill and enjoy! Don’t want to add ice? Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Review: What Remains of Her by Eric Rickstad

Kerry Hammond found another new-to-her author and is here to tell us what she thought.

What Remains of Her by Eric Rickstad was published on July 24, in Trade Paperback, by William Morrow. Rickstad is a New York Times bestselling author of four other novels of suspense; three of which make up the Canaan Crime Novels series.

The book revolves around the disappearance of Rebecca Baum and her young daughter Sally, a case that went cold 25 years ago and left Jonah Baum—husband and father—to try and pick up the pieces of his life. There was speculation that Rebecca took her daughter and disappeared, but there was also small town gossip that Jonah had something to do with their disappearance. Now, 25 years to the day after they disappeared, a broken and reclusive Jonah finds a young girl in the woods. He is struck by her resemblance to his lost daughter and in his mind, muddled by years of grief, he tries to protect and save the girl; something he wasn’t able to do for his own daughter and wife. As the police continue to search for the missing child, Lucinda, a deputy sheriff who is tied to the original case, begins to piece together what happened all of those years ago.

The story drew me in right away and I was mesmerized by the world Rickstad created. The setting was perfect for the story that was being told: a remote part of Vermont, in the wintertime. There was a feeling of isolation that permeated the town and everyone in it. The cold and snow both hindered and helped. It hindered those who wanted to search for clues and helped those who were trying to hide.

There were plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing and a satisfying ending to wrap things up. I will definitely be checking out the author’s other books.

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Review: Little Girl Lost by Wendy Corsi Staub

Kerry Hammond is here with her review of the first book in a new series by Wendy Corsi Staub.

Little Girl Lost by Wendy Corsi Staub was published on July 24, in Mass Market Paperback by William Morrow. It’s the first in the Foundlings Trilogy, a new series by the author, who has written more than ninety novels—something not many authors ever achieve. I was a big fan of the Mundy’s Landing series and reviewed all three here on Mystery Playground: BloodRed, Blue Moon, and Bone White. I was excited to try the first book in a new series.

The story toggles between 1968, when a string of brutal attacks by a serial killer rocked New York City, and 1987 where we meet Amelia Crenshaw and NYPD Detective Stockton Barnes. Both Barnes and Crenshaw are searching for answers; Crenshaw wants to find the truth about her birth parents and Barnes wants to solve the missing person’s case of a Park Avenue millionaire. As information is revealed, we find that their two stories don’t just intersect, they are completely entwined, and the answers are not what they expected.

The story toggles from 1968 to 1987 as well as from character to character. This is a trademark of sorts for the author and I don’t usually mind the switches. With this book, though, I found the back and forth between characters to be sometimes hard to follow. There were quite a few characters at play, so this might explain my trouble. I did find the premise of the book extremely interesting and enjoyed the intersecting character paths. On the whole, I enjoy Corsi Staub’s writing, and her ability to tell unusual and intriguing stories.

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Review: The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah has a new Hercule Poirot mystery out and Kerry Hammond is eager to give us her review.

The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah is the third in the series featuring Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. It was published on August 28, in hardcover by William Morrow. The first in the series, The Monogram Murders, brought back one of the most famous sleuths in literary history. Fans of Agatha Christie and the traditional British mystery were able to revisit with an old friend and read a new story. Closed Casket was the second in the series and continued to follow Poirot’s investigations, this time the detective is present when the murder takes place but is unable to stop it.

In The Mystery of Three Quarters, the reader immediately feels like they have entered an Agatha Christie story. Four people have received a letter accusing them of the murder of a man named Barnabas Pandy, all signed by Hercule Poirot. There are two problems with this: 1) Barnabas Pandy did indeed die, but the police believed there was no foul play, and 2) Poirot didn’t write the letters. Each of the four people confront Poirot, with differing levels of outrage. He continues to explain his innocence, but his interest is piqued and he begins to wonder if Mr. Pandy’s death is more than what the police originally thought.

Poirot, with the help of Scotland Yard detective Edward Catchpool, looks into Pandy’s death as well as the background of each of the people who received a letter containing his forged signature. He finds the puzzle to be especially difficult to understand and the more he investigates, the more he wonders just what each of the suspects has in common and why they were targeted. Catchpool is our Hastings-like narrator, following along as Poirot uses his little grey cells to solve the case. The Scotland Yard detective takes on more of an investigative role than Hastings ever did, but his skills still pale in comparison to the great Hercule Poirot—as they should!

I’ve read each of Hannah’s Poirot mysteries and can honestly say they get better and better as the series continues. I love the plots and characters, which remind me so much of Christie’s work. There is enough of Hannah’s own voice that still make the books hers, and that’s somehow comforting. She’s not trying to impersonate the Queen of Mystery, she is merely carrying on in her absence with enough skill to please Christie’s fans and honor her legacy. I hope to see many more books in this series.

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Review: Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day

A new book with an exciting setting is the subject of Kerry Hammond's review today.

Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day was published on August 7, in Hardcover, by William Morrow. Rader-Day is the award winning author of three previous standalone mysteries, and you can read a Mystery Playground review of The Day I Died here. One of the things that always draws me to Rader-Day’s books are the unique premises and characters.

In Under a Dark Sky, the story is set in a part of northern Michigan near a Dark Sky Park. A Dark Sky Park is an area noted for its exceptional star and constellation viewing. It’s where the public can go to view starry nights without light pollution. It’s also where Eden Wallace finds herself mixed up in murder.

After a traffic accident took the life of her husband of nearly 10 years, Eden finds among his paperwork a reservation for a week’s vacation at a Dark Sky Park. When she arrives she finds that she doesn’t have the place all to herself, but is sharing the house with six college friends who are having a reunion of sorts. Still grieving over the loss of her husband, and experiencing an acute fear of the dark, Eden decides to leave but can’t do so until daybreak—at least that was the plan. Instead she wakes to find one of the other guests has been murdered and she, along with the other five, are suspects.

Part of what sucked me right into this book was the unique premise. I love a good closed universe mystery where all the characters are snowed in or on a remote island. During the murder this was the case, and the darkness added an extra eerie aspect to the story. I found myself picturing myself there with the characters, experiencing the intense darkness, wondering how I would feel in a similar situation. 

We watch Eden struggle to make sense of the murder as well as her life and her grief. It’s a story of personal awakening as much as it’s a murder mystery. Eden was very much alone, a 7th wheel in a situation where emotions ran high between the six friends. As can be expected, the friends toggled between acceptance of her and blame—since it’s easier to blame an outsider. The flip flopping of their feelings toward her got a little bit much, but on the whole I enjoyed the story and it kept me guessing. It inspired me too, I’m now off to find a Dark Sky Park to visit!

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Reckless ARC Giveaway and Drink Recipe

We have advanced reader copy giveaway today on Drinks with Reads. David Putnam's new book Reckless doesn't come out until this February, but the first five readers (US residents only) to comment on this blog post will receive the book early before it's available to the public, a copy of the first "early years" Bruno Johnson novel, and The Innocents. 

David Putnam's latest novel in the "early years" of the Bruno Johnson series includes a few references to Yoo-hoo, the chocolate drink. Dave tells me there's a law-enforcement term in California: "wet reckless" which is when you essentially just miss DUI. Of course, we do not recommend drinking and driving at all, ever, but we borrowed from that term for the name of this yummy chocolate beverage, which can be made with or without the alcohol. 

Wet Reckless (Chocolate)

Yoo-hoo chocolate drink (or chocolate milk)
Chocolate vodka (optional, here I used s'mores flavored)
Whipped cream (can be alcohol-infused)
Chocolate syrup

Add chocolate syrup to your empty glass (I was a bit RECKLESS with my chocolate syrup application, works better if you chill the syrup first).

Add whipped cream, and optional chocolate/s'more flavored vodka to taste. 

Add Yoo-hoo or chocolate milk.

Add more whipped cream and chocolate syrup. And even more if you like. We can always use more chocolate! Enjoy and don't forget to comment to receive an early copy of the book, plus two of David's other books (US residents only). 

Available for pre-order now: The Reckless, by David Putnam. 

Early reviewers are raving: "...dazzles with authenticity, sharply-drawn characters, crackling dialogue, and insider details that only a real cop could bring to the page. Putnam can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Joseph Wambaugh and Michael Connelly." ―Lee Goldberg, New York Times best-selling author

“David Putnam scores again with The Reckless, his new prequel thriller featuring major crimes detective Bruno Johnson... The Reckless will make crime-fiction fans eager to read more of Bruno's past adventures." ―Glen Hamilton, Anthony and Edgar Award-winning author

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Review: Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone

A bestselling romance novelist has written a novel of suspense and Kerry Hammond is eager to tell us how much she loved the book.

Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone is a standalone novel of suspense that was published on August 1, in Hardcover by Lake Union Publishing. Victoria Helen Stone is the nom de plume of author Victoria Dahl, who has more than 25 books under her belt. Her genre has primarily been romance and she has only recently turned her skill toward the mystery and suspense genre. I, for one, am happy she did.

Jane Doe is a story about a woman who is single mindedly focused on meeting, seducing, and ruining one man. As the story progresses we learn her reasons, her plan, and just how cold and calculating she can be. And from page one, we are placing all of our hopes on her success.

They say that people read mystery novels and detective fiction because they like to see justice done. They like to see the good guys prevail and the bad guys punished. I think that’s true, at least for me as a reader, and this is part of the reason I loved Jane Doe. I enjoyed watching Jane on her cold and calculating quest for her own form of justice. When a story is written in first person, the narrator is also the protagonist and you have to feel something for that person. You have to identify with them or care about them in some way. As unlikely as Jane might seem as a person with whom a reader might bond, it happens, and once it does, the readers wants her to succeed. I honestly didn’t even care how she chose to go about exacting justice, I was behind her 100%, in her corner no matter where she took me.

Stone is a gifted storyteller and I loved her writing style. There wasn’t a single excess word, paragraph, or scene. Her writing is a concise narrative that takes hold of the reader and doesn’t let go. I hope to see many more books by this author.

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Review: The Man Who Couldn't Miss by David Handler

Journalist turned author, David Handler, has a new book out in a series that Kerry Hammond loves. She’s here to tell us what she thinks.

The Man Who Couldn’t Miss by David Handler was published on August 14, in Hardcover by William Morrow. It’s the 10th in the Stewart Hoag Mystery series. We also reviewed the 9th book in the series, The Girl With the Kaleidascope Eyes, here on Mystery Playground. I love this series and was excited to see there was a new book out; I just had to get my hands on it.

Ghostwriter Stewart Hoag “Hoagy” and his basset hound, Lulu, are back and up to their eyeballs in a new mystery. Hoagy is spending some time in the country at a farmhouse belonging to his ex-wife, actress Merilee Nash. Merilee is putting on a high priced charity event to save a local theater and tensions are running high. When one of the actors is murdered, Hoagy is there to help solve the crime.

Hoagy and Lulu are priceless. Hoagy is there with his flashy fashion sense and dry sense of humor, and Lulu, well Lulu is scared of her own shadow. But she manages to back up Hoagy when he needs her most, and she’s always there to sniff out a clue. Hoagy is smooth without being arrogant, he is dapper with a one-of-a-kind style, and he is the exact person you want around in a crises. He is calm and analytical and he always manages to catch the killer.

This is a wonderful series, I love Handler’s style of writing and Hoagy is such a unique character. It’s refreshing to find a protagonist who is outside the mold; there is nothing cookie cutter about him. The small town theater storyline and the quaint Connecticut backdrop made for a great mystery. This is a fun and satisfying series and I thoroughly enjoy it.

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Crime & Beyond Book Club Reads I Know a Secret by Tess Gerritsen

The Denver-based book club Crime & Beyond recently discussed the 12th book in the Rizzoli & Isles series by Tess Gerritsen and Kerry Hammond is here to give us her notes.

Crime & Beyond met this month to discuss I Know a Secret, the 12th book in the Rizzoli and Isles series written by Tess Gerritsen. Many club members had seen the TNT series starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander but quite a few were reading the books for the first time. I was a bit worried at jumping in at book 12, but we went with it since it was the most recent--published earlier this year. There were a few storyline spoilers this far into the series, but on the whole it didn’t detract from our enjoyment.

In the book, Boston police detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles are pulled into several murder cases that seemingly mimic the gruesome deaths of martyred saints. Their investigated leads them back to an incident of alleged abuse of children at a school some time before and the family who were prosecuted for the crime. Maura’s biological mother, a convicted serial killer named Amalthea, is dying of cancer but still manages to taunt Maura with information relating to their current investigation.

Our bookclub really loved this book and gave it a very high rating. We thought it was an easy and quick read, although not without some gore. We loved the twists, turns, and red herrings that led us away from the true culprit. We had a great discussion and many will be going back to book one in the series to read more. It was a great choice for a book club read.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Ten Ways to Celebrate Alfred Hitchcock's Birthday Right

Here at Mystery Playground, we love Alfred Hitchcock - the movies, the short story magazine and the mayhem. 

Here's a guide to everything Hitchcock:

1) Have THE best Psycho Marathon - with the book, the movies, the TV show, and snacks. You'll need a weekend for this one... 

2) Have a Dial M For Murder Party - complete with themed drinks and food. 

3) Enjoy a Cary Grant/Alfred Hitchcock double feature. And you can make an Alfred Hitchcock Profile jar while you're watching the movies.  

4) Subscribe to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine - With six issues a year this short story magazine is filled with Hitchcock inspired tales to keep your spine tingling. 

5) Have a Dinner Party Honoring "The Birds" - complete with decorations, icebreakers, and recipes. Don't forget "The Birds" Pot Pie.

6) Have a Rear Window Drinks party with Rear Window Brownies and Voyertinis. Leave the curtains open. 

7) Check out these fabulous vintage movie posters from Alfred's movies. They are so cool. 

8) Watch Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes and with a dinner of potato soup. Wait, where did she go? 

9) Play the Alfred Hitchcock Board Game. If can find it on eBay. 

10) Make a greeting card inspired by To Catch A Thief. It's not that hard. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Death on the Menu and a Hemingway Cocktail

Clinical psychologist Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) is our guest today on Drinks with Reads with an inspired cocktail you won't want to miss. She has published 16 mysteries, including the latest in the Key West food critic series, DEATH ON THE MENU (Crooked Lane Books, August 2018.) Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She's a member of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime. She blogs at and shares her love for food with the culinary writers at Take it away, Roberta!

Food critic Hayley Snow is thrilled to be working at a three-day international conference at the Harry S. Truman Little White House. Things get off to a bad start when Hemingway’s Nobel prize gold medal (which belongs to Cuba and is on display for this weekend only) disappears. And they only get worse when a body is discovered in the storeroom. Hayley must spring into action before the killer adds another victim to his menu. 

When I was picturing this first-ever conference between Havana and Key West, I could imagine lots of conflict, as the history between the two countries is fraught with landmines. So then I tried to imagine what the two countries share and I came up with Ernest Hemingway. His wonderful home in Key West, where he lived with his second wife Pauline, is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island, known for its polydactyl cats. He also lived outside of Havana for a long stretch of town time with his third wife. He loved both places (maybe Cuba a little more) and spent much time writing, fishing, and drinking. So what could go better with Death on the Menu than a Hemingway special cocktail?
Hemingway was a serious drinker who enjoyed his cocktails powerful and did not like sugar. So I made a few tweaks to the recipe for the rest of us.

Hemingway Special Cocktail (serves three)

1/2 cup good rum such as Pussers
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup grapefruit juice (I used pink)
1/3 cup maraschino cherry juice
1-2 tsp sugar, to taste
Club soda
Maraschino and fresh cherries for garnish
Stir together the first five ingredients. Pour over ice and add club soda to taste. Garnish with cherries. Cheers!

"Fascinating details about the Truman Little White House, Cuban American history and relations, Cuban food, and Hemingway’s years in Key West are woven through this atmospheric cozy."—Booklist 

You can find Lucy on FacebookInstagram, Pinterest and 
Twitter:   @lucyburdette

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Review: In the Vines by Shannon Kirk

Kerry Hammond is here to tell us about a new-to-her author and an atmospheric thriller that she couldn't put down. 

In The Vines by Shannon Kirk was published on July 17, in Hardcover by Thomas & Mercer publishers. It is the 3rd book written by practicing attorney and writer Shannon Kirk; a standalone novel of psychological suspense.

In the Vines tells the story of Mary Olivia Pentecost, aka Mop, a young woman who comes from a very wealthy family. She is raised by a loving and eccentric mother, a kind father, and a quirky aunt. Mop’s whole world fell apart when her mother died two years ago. She lost contact with her boyfriend Manny and her aunty Liv, who shut herself away from it all. When Mop finally sees her aunt again, she is shocked at her state and it is soon very clear that she is hiding much more than her grief for the loss of her sister. As Mop starts to unravel Liv’s secrets, she learns more about the mysterious events that led to her mother’s death and her own life is suddenly in danger.

I think Kirk’s greatest accomplishment is her ability to create interesting, quirky, weird, and wonderful characters. I wanted to meet Mop and her mother and sit alongside them as they read together. I also wanted to visit Aunty Liv’s estate and explore the grounds. I might even say that the story had a gothic flair; the plot kept me guessing and I didn’t see any of the twists coming until they were right there in front of me. Kirk writes with a literary flair that got me a bit bogged down at times, but I enjoyed the tangled story she told and look forward to seeing what she dreams up next.  

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

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Review: A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay

New York Times Bestselling author Linwood Barclay has a new novel on bookshelves and Kerry Hammond wants to tell us about it.

A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay was released in Hardcover on July 24, by William Morrow. Barclay is the author of nearly twenty novels, both standalones and series installments. I’ve read quite a few of his creations and I always enjoy the interesting plots that he cooks up. When I found out that A Noise Downstairs contained a possibly sinister vintage typewriter I was immediately hooked.

In A Noise Downstairs, Paul Davis is a college professor in Connecticut. His world is turned upside down when an encounter with a colleague turns into a nightmare. Davis catches another professor, Kenneth Hoffman, in the process of disposing of the bodies of two women he’s murdered. When Kenneth perceives Paul as a threat, he attempts to make him his third victim. Paul survives the encounter, but does not come out unscathed. He suffers from memory loss and a form of PTSD, which requires him to seek the help of a therapist.

Paul’s wife brings home a vintage typewriter to inspire his writing, and to cheer him up. He couldn’t be happier to receive such a gift, but the typewriter’s novelty soon wears off when Paul wakes in the night to hear it typing. All by itself. With no one in the house. As if it were possessed. What follows is Paul’s possible descent into madness and his struggle to deal with what happened with Kenneth Hoffman.

This book had a very unique premise and I love that. I couldn’t decide if the story was going to stay within the realm of reality or trail off into science fiction, but I was along for the ride and ready for whichever way it might take me. I think Barclay is a true storyteller and I enjoyed the ride, including the shout out to the vintage typewriter! There were more than a few twists and turns and I didn’t guess half of them. If you’re looking to be entertained by an interesting story, you’re in for a treat.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Review: The Day of the Dead by Nicci French

Nicci French’s 8th and FINAL book in the Frieda Klein series is out and Kerry Hammond is here to give us her review.

The Day of the Dead by Nicci French is the 8th and final book in the exciting Frieda Klein series written by British husband and wife team, Nicci Gerard and Sean French. It was published on July 24, in Trade Paperback by William Morrow. Followers of this series, myself included, have been anticipating the finale since book one, Blue Monday. Frieda is a wonderful character and I have looked forward to each new book in the series.

Frieda Klein is a Psychotherapist living in London who has spent years being stalked by psychopath Dean Reeve. Reeve is a master at hiding from the police and killing innocent people, and he is obsessed with Frieda. From the beginning, she has tried to stay a step ahead of him, tried to help the police catch him—even when they didn’t even believe her that he was still alive. She is the only one who can get inside his mind and who stands a chance at guessing what he’ll do next. But up until now she has been unable to stop him.

In The Day of the Dead Frieda has gone into hiding. She has left her family and friends, telling no one where she’s gone. She knows Reeves will kill to get to her and in order to protect those she loves, she needs to distance herself and attempt to catch him, or die trying. One snag in her plans is Lola Hayes, a criminology student who is studying Frieda for her thesis. When she finds Frieda, she puts herself in danger and the only way Frieda can keep her safe is to take her along with her. It is soon clear that Lola’s life is still in danger and Frieda may not be able to save everyone, least of all herself.

Reading the last book in a series is always bittersweet. I struggled between savoring every word and devouring them to get to the end. I loved that although Frieda is the main character, she doesn’t even appear until nearly page 100. As onlookers, we first see the lives of her friends who are worrying about her, going about their business as if in a fog. We see people who don’t know her discussing her whereabouts and her history in dealing with Reeve. We watch police detectives investigating new crimes as bodies are turning up around town with no clear connection. When Frieda does appear the real manhunt begins and the cat and mouse game is ramped up.

Although there is no mystery as to who the killer is, there are twists and turns along the way as Frieda attempts to trap Reeve. Even though I anticipated a certain ending to the story, I was still surprised at the events that transpired and found myself drawn in until I had turned the last page.  

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

Friday, August 3, 2018

S’more Murders and a Titanic Cocktail

Maya (Mary Ann) Corrigan writes the Five-Ingredient Mysteries: By Cook or by Crook, Scam Chowder, Final Fondue, The Tell-Tale Tarte, and S’more Murders and today she's here mixing up a fabulous cocktail. Her series, set on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, 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. 

A yacht on the Chesapeake Bay is the murder scene in the fifth book of the series, the Titanic-related S’More Murders. As warm April weather brings boaters to the Chesapeake Bay, Val Deniston agrees to cater a dinner party aboard a yacht. Its owner, a collector of Titanic memorabilia, asks her to re-create the final meal served on that doomed ship—a ten-course meal for eight people. The collector’s trophy wife adds another dish to the feast, prevailing on him to serve s’mores as an icebreaker when the guests arrive. On the anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking, the yachtsman welcomes his guests aboard and assigns them roles in a murder mystery game. Val soon reaches the chilling conclusion that the host is fishing for the culprit in a real crime. When someone disappears from the boat, Val and Granddad have to reel in a killer before s’more murders go down. 

To write a book revolving around the final meal served on the Titanic, I researched what the passengers ate and drank on that ship. No bar menus have survived from the Titanic, but historians tell us that cocktails were popular in the first decade of the 20th century. Among the cocktails people of that era drank are the Manhattan, the Tom Collins, and the daiquiri. Wine and champagne flowed freely on the Titanic. The ship reportedly carried 1500 bottles of wine.
We know more about what the passengers on the Titanic ate than what they drank. A few passengers tucked souvenir menus in their jacket pockets, and those menus survived. Original menus exist for the last meals that the first and second class passengers ate on the ship. In the first-class dining room, waiters brought the food to the table on silver platters, offered guests a portion of every dish, and suggested a wine to pair with the food. The sixth course was a palette cleanser, Punch Romaine, similar to a frozen champagne cocktail or an alcoholic sorbet.  
The drink related to my book is an updated version of Punch Romaine. What better place to photograph a drink served on the Titanic than on a ship? I took the photo while cruising to Bermuda. When I asked Mike, the mixologist on the Holland America Veendam, to make a cocktail served on the Titanic, he looked startled. Apparently, no one else had ever made such a request. Then he began humming the theme song of the blockbuster Titanic movie and continued to hum as he concocted the cocktail. The recipe I gave him, which appears here, is adapted from one that appeared in Saveur a hundred years after the Titanic hit an iceberg.  

The Titanic Cocktail

1 oz. white wine
1⁄2 oz. simple syrup
1⁄2 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. orange juice
1 oz. white rum
2 oz. Champagne or sparkling wine
Twist of orange peel, for garnish

Combine the white wine, syrup, juices, and rum in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake the mixture and pour it over a mound of crushed ice in a coupe cocktail glass. Add a splash of champagne and a twist of orange peel. 

To find out more about the Five-Ingredient Mysteries, including S’more Murders, visit Maya’s: 

Amazon Author Page: