Monday, September 30, 2019

Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine Podcast of "Taking Care"

Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine has released a podcast of "Taking Care," one of my short stories.  It's a half-hour of mayhem, murder, and fun. I had the opportunity to record the story with Alfred Hitchcock's Editor, Linda Landrigan, and we had a great time.  Just click on the link below to hear the story...

Friday, September 27, 2019

Witchy Brew For Halloween

Carol J. Perry joins us today to celebrate the release of her new cozy mystery, Late Checkout. Let's see what she's got brewing...

Thanks for inviting me back to Mystery Playground’s Friday Drinks with Reads!. Late Checkout, book number nine in the Witch City Mystery series from Kensington, was just released this week. This time  Lee, Pete, Aunt Ibby, and O’Ryan the cat share an adventure that begins with a dead body showing up in the stacks at Salem’s main library.  The victim turns out to be a former minor league baseball player—and ex-con—named Wee Willie Wallace—who hasn’t been seen in Salem for twenty years.
It’s October in the witch city and the traditional Halloween haunted happenings are in full swing. With help from Lee’s detective beau Pete Mondello, her Tarot reading BFF River North, her tech-savvy librarian Aunt Ibby, .her clairvoyant cat, O’Ryan and a few costumed collaborators, Lee steps up to the plate to catch the killer who took the old ballplayer out of the game!
New Englanders love their rum, and today’s special Halloween drink features three varieties of that tasty tipple! This Witchy Brew is great tasting, but powerful. Park your broom, stay home and enjoy.
  • 1 ounce light rum
  • 1 ounce dark rum
  • 1 ounce 151 rum
  • 1 ounce Cointreau orange liqueur
  • 3 ounces orange juice
  • 1 ½ ounce lemonade
  • ¼ ounce grenadine

Put one cup of ice into a cocktail shaker. Add all ingredients and shake to combine. Pour into appropriately festive Halloween glass and fill with ice. Garnish with orange wheel and straw. Serve.
(It’s wicked good.)

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Fault Lines Editor Margaret Lucke Answers Our Questions

Editor and author, Margaret Lucke joins us today to talk about Fault Lines: Stories by Northern California Crime Writers, a short story anthology published by the Northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is the author of three mystery novels: A Relative Stranger (nominated for an Anthony Award), House of Whispers, and Snow Angel. She has taught writing classes for more than 20 years, and she has published two how-to books on the craft of writing.
Margaret will be appearing at the Book Passage bookstore this Sunday at 4pm on a panel called "A is for Anthology: the Writing and Publishing of Short Stories." Also appearing on the panel are Robin C. Stuart, Deborah Lacy, JJ Lamb, and Judith Janeway. 

What do you want to tell readers about the anthology? What can they expect when reading it?
Sisters in Crime NorCal has long had a goal of producing an anthology to showcase its talented members, and we’re very excited to see it become a reality. Fault Lines contains 19 stories of crime, justice, guilt, and innocence. There is plenty of suspense, a touch of humor, and fascinating characters that readers will be glad to meet. Some of the stories are by well-established writers, while others are new voices. If you’re a fan of crime fiction, Fault Lines has stories you’re sure to enjoy.

Not only are you the editor of the anthology, but you also have a story in it. How did it feel to be both a writer and an editor? Was switching hats hard?

While this is the first anthology I’ve edited, I have a lot of experience as both a writer and an editor. Both of those functions are necessary to produce the best possible story. They require different kinds of skill and attention, they are two sides of the same creative coin. So when I go from one to the other, I don’t think of it as switching hats so much as flipping one hat inside out.

In this case, I wrote my story, “Two Hundred Miles,” well before the editing process for the anthology began. Reading it during the editing phase was almost like reading someone else’s tale. But at that point I had other people read it with their sharp editorial eyes.

What was your biggest challenge with this anthology?
Wrangling all of the many tasks and details. In addition to being the editor, I’m the chief project wrangler, coordinating the entire project, from chairing the first planning meetings to arranging for some of the publicity. SinC NorCal choose to act as its own publisher, and that has meant become familiar with the demands and techniques of indie publishing. 

But I did not do it alone. One of the most rewarding aspects has been working with a wonderful team of talented and enthusiastic people—our submissions manager, the selection panel, the proofreaders, the interior designer, the cover coordinator, and many more who contributed their efforts and ideas.

What was the most fun?
Celebrating the publication of the book! We introduced Fault Lines at Left Coast Crime in Vancouver in March and had a festive book launch party last month at Borderlands Books in San Francisco. It was very exciting to finally hold a copy in my hand after all of the hard work.

But much of that work was fun too. I enjoy editing and helping authors achieve their stories’ full potential. And working with the team—the brainstorming, the idea exchange, all of the assistance, support, and friendship we gave each other: that was perhaps the most enjoyable part of the project.

Where did you get the idea for the Fault Lines theme?

It seemed like a natural theme for a Northern California anthology, and it was one of the first decisions that the planning team made. The most obvious reference is to the earthquakes and seismic activity and susceptibility that many people associate with our region. But the phrase Fault Lines has various meanings and nuances, and a writer’s imagination could take it in many directions. These stories explore the faults that exist not just in the earth but in people—the flaws and failings that lead us to commit grievous acts against someone else, and the guilt and culpability we bear. They also examine the lines that we draw to connect clues, expose secrets, establish bonds, and lead us to justice.
What short story writers inspire your work?
Oh, so many! A well-crafted short story is a small treasure. They make different demands on a writer than a novel does, and I admire writers who can do them well. In terms of mystery and crime stories I’ll mention the one of the classics—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. For a more contemporary short story master, there’s Lawrence Block. And of course all of the authors in Fault Lines.

What is the best thing that has happened to you as a result of your writing?
It’s impossible to single out one best thing. Here are a few things that I love about being a writer:
* The spark and excitement when a new idea takes hold.
* Getting to know my characters as they gradually reveal themselves to me.
* Coming up with just the right plot twist.
* Those (rare) days when the writing goes so well that time flies and dinnertime arrives five minutes after breakfast is over.
* The many interesting experiences I’ve had while doing research and going to conferences.
* Friendships I’ve developed with fellow writers.
* Hearing a reader say, “I loved your book.”

What are you working on now?
I’m putting the final touches on House of Desire, a follow-up to my haunted house mystery, House of Whispers. While attending a fundraising party in a grand San Francisco Victorian, reluctant psychic Claire Scanlan runs into a mysterious young woman in old-fashioned garb whom no one else can see. When a murder occurs in the mansion, the invisible girl—a time-traveling “soiled dove” from the 1890s—is the only witness. To find her and solve the crime, Claire must risk a perilous journey into the past from which she may never return. The book will come out later this year.
I’m also putting together a series of handbooks of fiction craft, based on the writing classes I teach. The first one, on creating characters, is almost ready to go.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Review: Sins of the Fathers by J.A. Jance

Kerry Hammond is here with a review of the latest book in a long running series by author J.A. Jance.

Sins of the Fathers by J.A. Jance was released on September 24, in Hardcover, by William Morrow publishers. It is the 24th book in the J.P. Beaumont series. Beaumont is a former Seattle cop who has decided to work as a private investigator, but doesn’t feel the need to really chase after a case. But one lands on his doorstep in the form of an old friend, holding a baby, trying to find his missing daughter, who just happens to be the baby’s mother. Dale, the old friend in question, brings with him old memories and Beau finds that there are stories from his past that he never knew.

I think we need to address the elephant in the room. Yes, this is book twenty-four! To be completely honest, I started this book after reading the book jacket. Nowhere did it mention that this was book 24, and I’m glad. I might have gone in with reservations, or at the very least been intimidated by how much past this series must have. After finishing, I went to the author’s website and Jance has been writing this character for almost 20 years.

So you might wonder how I fared with the book, not knowing what I didn’t know. I have to say, I immediately fell in love with Beau. There were a few pages in the beginning that contained some backstory, and I could tell that this man had had several professional chapters in his life, but it never occurred to me they’d all been on the page. I thought I was reading about a retired cop who had just turned private investigator. I honestly thought his story had just started.

This says a lot about the author. She was able to draw me into a long running series as if it were the first book. I didn’t feel lost at all, the characters were engaging, and the writing was smooth and easy. I’ve read Jance before, but it’s been awhile—and it was another series. After finishing this book I wondered why I let her fall off my reading list. I won’t let that happen again.

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. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Review: The Last Seance by Agatha Christie

Kerry Hammond is here today with her review of a newly published short story collection by the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie.

The Last Séance: Tales of the Supernatural is a collection of short stories by Agatha Christie. Each story has an otherworldly theme, chosen to fit the compilation that was published on September 24, in Trade Paperback, by William Morrow Paperbacks.

The book is just in time for Halloween and contains the spookiest of Christie’s stories. It’s got a little bit of everything: a Poirot story where he investigates the death of a man who was having strange dreams, a medium who dares to perform one last reading, and Miss Marple solves what seems to be an impossible murder, just to name a few.

Most of the stories appear in other anthologies, but there’s just something about having these all in one place. For those of us who enjoy everything Christie, it’s a new book for the collection with a great theme. Of the twenty stories, one has never before been published in the U.S., which makes this a must have book.

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. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Good Cop and das Radler

Author and artist Peter Steiner joins us today on Drinks with Reads to talk about his book, The Good Cop. You can read about Peter approached the beginning of this book over on Art Taylor's First Two Pages Blog

The Good Cop is set in Munich, Germany, amid the chaos and revolt that followed World War One. Maximilian Wolf, a veteran of that war, just wants to forget it all and have a normal life.  But in Munich, that is easier said than done. There is hunger, massive unemployment, fascists and communists are fighting in the streets.  And yet, Maximilian finds a job as a newspaper artist, meets and falls in love with Sophie Auerbach, a reporter, and—before all hell breaks loose—life starts  to look good. 
“One Sunday morning Sophie and Maximilian took a train from Munich to Bad Aibling, forty minutes southwest of the city.  She had been there once as a child and remembered it as beautiful.  They walked on tiny farm roads for two hours, passing wayside crosses, country churches, pastures where the hay had been cut and stacked. They sat in the sun on the terrace of Zum Braumeister, a small Gasthaus facing the shimmering snow-covered Alps to their east and drank cold beer with lemonade.”
We do not normally think of beer as an ingredient in mixed drinks, but the Germans do.  They have an extensive list of Biermischgetränke (beer mixed drinks). Beer with lemonade (Bier mit Limonade) or das Radler is a favorite in Germany, particularly in Bavaria, and especially on a hot summer day.  It is tall, cold, light, and refreshing.
The Radler has only two ingredients—cold beer and the cold lemony soft drink of your choice mixed in equal parts.  You may eventually prefer 60/40 one way or the other.  When the drink was first invented, dark beer was used, but not any longer.   When you order a Radler in a Gasthaus, they will put  the lemonade in the glass first, then the soft drink.   That way there will be less foam.  When you make it yourself, start with the beer, then add the soft drink.  The beer is lighter in weight, and so das Radler mixes itself.


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 café 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.