Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Patterns in the Sand by Sally Goldenbaum (ObsidianMystery-Penguin)

Sea Harbor’s Canary Cove art colony consists of a very close-knit group of artists and gallery owners. Izzy Chambers, owner of the Seaside Knitting Studio, has brought the ladies of the community together to knit hats for cancer patients When Willow Adam, a young fiber artist, is found asleep in Izzy’s shop window, the art community takes her in. When the current colony association president, Aidan Peabody, is found murdered, the Seaside Knitters fear it is someone they all know. Izzy calls upon her knitting group to help solve the murder. The knitters are surprised as they uncover secrets and surprises in their little community. Is Willow who she says she is? As the story develops you get to know and love the people of Sea Harbor. This is great summer time reading for the beach!

--Helen Jones

FTC Disclosusre - This book was provided by the publisher.

TRIAL BY FIRE by J. A. Jance (Touchstone Books)

Ali Reynolds, a former investigative TV reporter, is talked into to being the temporary media relations spokesperson for the Yavapai County Police Department. Being on the other side of the camera and answering rather than asking questions is a new experience. Soon after joining the department a subdivision is torched and an unidentified naked woman is found with severe life-threatening burns. Ali has her hands full trying to handle the media; circumventing questions about arson and a domestic terrorist organization called the Earth Liberation Front. As the Feds get involved, Ali goes to the hospital to try to learn the identity of the patient and to keep the media at bay.

The patient is on a ventilator and drifts in and out of consciousness. Her only means of communicating is by blinking her eyes. Sister Anseim, a patient advocate, is assigned to protect the patient’s privacy and make medical decisions on her behalf. Fearing that whoever tried to kill the woman may try again, Sister Anseim asks Ali for help. When the injured woman's family shows up, they become prime suspects because they seem more concerned about her money and a missing painting than about the patient. Was this an act of domestic terrorism or a murder for revenge or money?

The characters are believable and the clues lead in a circle. As the story developed I could not put this book down!

--Helen Jones

FTC Disclosure - This book was provided by the publisher.

FRAME UP by John F. Dobbyn (Oceanview Publishing)

John McKedrick and Michael Knight were best friends at Harvard Law School. After graduating, the two young men walked different paths. John went to work with an attorney for the Boston Mafia. Mike went to work for the US Attorney’s Office and later formed a criminal defense law practice with his mentor, and legendary trial attorney Lex Devlin. John and Michael remained best friends with Michael always encouraging John to escape to greener pastures. It seemed that John was finally going to change jobs when he is murdered. What appears to be a mob hit leads three men to meet for the first time in 40 years—Matt Ryan, a Catholic priest, Dominic Santangelo, a Mafia don, and Lex Devlin. The three men must put aside their past to focus on the defense of Dominic’s son who has been accused of John’s murder. In preparing their defense Michael is drawn into a cat and mouse game with the international Mafia involving art fraud. This is a tale full of twists and turns with a lot of bad guys, dead bodies, and suspense as Michael attempts to walk the line between legal and criminal actions. If you like legal mysteries involving the Mafia underworld you will enjoy this book.

--Helen Jones

FTC Disclosure - This book was provided by the publisher.

HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY by Penny Warner (Signet)

When Presley Parker is unexpectedly downsized from her position as an instructor of abnormal psychology at a local college, she decides to follow in her mother's footsteps. Her new career as an event planner receives a boost when she arranges a "surprise" wedding for the mayor of San Francisco and his diva fiancee on Alcatraz Island.

With San Francisco as a backdrop, this traditional mystery is a delight to read. Warner seamlessly weaves many interesting historical facts about  the City of San Francisco into the story. Presley finds herself in many unfortunate circumstances, but the way she views them is totally entertaining. Warner has a talent for building suspenseful situations and creating a page-turner with endearing characters. I look forward to reading the next book in this well written  series.

--Karen Kiley

FTC Disclosure - This book was provided by the publisher.

JUSTICE IN JUNE by Barbara Levenson (Oceanview Publishing)

Miami defense attorney, Mary Magruder Katz, is involved three different cases. The first involves Criminal Court Judge Liz Maxwell who is being investigated by the State Attorney’s office for dismissing cases involving Miami’s drug traffic. Mary has to take some risks that put her in danger of losing her law practice and her life.

The second case involves Luis Corona, a family friend of her hot boyfriend, Carlos. Luis is accused of being a terrorist and disappears into the home security black hole. Word gets out that Mary is defending a terrorist which leads to threats and loss of clients.

The third case involves her boyfriend. Carlos is a builder and he is being sued by condo owners. Carlos and his entire family expect her to resolve the law suit without any damage to his reputation. The characters are interesting and the suspense builds as Mary juggles these three cases. This is a light mystery with a surprise ending.

--Helen Jones

FTC Disclosure - This book was provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

MAMA GETS HITCHED by Deborah Sharp (Midnight Ink)

If the third book in a series is sometimes a curse, this time it's definitely a charm! Every time I had to stop reading, I was tugged back by Mama and her three girls—Maddie, Mace, and Marty. You'll guess from the title that Mama is getting married, but you probably won't be prepared for the wedding straight from Gone with the Wind, the body in the VFW Hall, the new Yankee invasion, and the gators. The close-knit Florida family is charming, if a little wacky; the crime is plausible; and the story fast-paced and funny.

Mace Bauer is an outdoorsy woman uninterested in frills. She's bending over backward to help her sisters make their mother's fifth wedding special. Unfortunately, Mace discovers a body while looking for the caterer who's late for a meeting. Having an on-again-off-again boyfriend isn't a great deal of help to Mace in her sleuthing—he's tight-lipped about ongoing investigations. Said on-again-off-again relationship suffers when Tony, a gorgeous Ivy League hunk enters the picture and targets Mace. (He's part of the Yankee invasion.)

Take a few hours to spend in Himmarshee, Florida with Mace and the gang. This is one trip that will go off without a hitch!

Love Is Murder - Conference

Many folks who come to our mystery panels ask a lot of questions about how to get an agent and how to get published. This conference would be a great way to find out the answers—and it would give you a chance to rub shoulders with a lot of fine authors! I went to the "Dark and Stormy Nights" in Chicago many years ago and found it to be well-run, informative, and totally interesting.

Hotel rates are very reasonable and conference registration is staggered so you can get as much or as little as you want. Check out the website—you'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Guest Blogger Carola Dunn

Second Book

Writing the second book in a series is an interesting experience. It's been 15 years since the last time I did it, with The Winter Garden Mystery, the second Daisy Dalrymple book. When I started work on A Colourful Death, my second Cornish mystery, I had a cast of characters created for a particular story, Manna from Hades. Now they had to be fitted into a new scenario.

My two protagonists were easy. The new story is, after all, made for the point-of-view characters, Eleanor Trewynn and DS Megan Pencarrow.

Eleanor is a widow who, after travelling the world working for an international charity, retires to a cottage in a Cornish fishing port. It's her friend and neighbour, artist Nick Gresham, who is arrested for the murder of a fellow-artist, so she (not to mention Nick!) is involved from the outset. Her niece, Megan, is brought into the case as a police detective, as is her irascible boss, DI Scumble.

As I wrote, the detectives' involvement took an unexpected turn, though, when they ended up on the same side as Eleanor, trying to prove Nick's innocence and find the real murderer.

I wasn't at all sure I had a place in the story for Jocelyn Stearns, the vicar's wife, a kind, efficient, bossy friend of Eleanor's. Then Megan started to worry about her elderly aunt's being alone, surrounded by suspects, in an artists' commune. Unbeknownst to the inspector, she phones Jocelyn and begs her to go and support Aunt Nell. Bingo, there's Joce thoroughly entwined in the tale.

I even managed to bring in Megan's ex-boyfriend, a Scotland Yard detective, in a peripheral role.

In Manna from Hades, Nick pushed his way into the story without any planning on my part. I didn't guess at the time that he was going to be a major figure in the second book. Detective Inspector Scumble is also a minor character, but interestingly, one review of A Colourful Death has as much to say about him and Jocelyn as about any of the other characters.

Clearly, every one of them is an essential part of the mix. So now, how to involve the whole crew in a third instalment?

Share your ideas and comments with Carola here. Also visit her website.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

STIRRING UP STRIFE by Jennifer Stanley (Minotaur)

Licking her wounds from a romantic break up, Cooper Lee returns to her parents' home in Richmond, Virginia and immerses herself in her job repairing copy machines. As she removes a wedding ring which has jammed a copier, Cooper meets business woman, Brooke Hughes, whose warmth and kindness leads Cooper to a new church. Attending her first meeting of the Sunrise Bible Study group, Cooper is shocked to hear Brooke has been murdered. The group decides they must discover who murdered their dear friend.

Confidence, friendship and romance return to Cooper's life at the Sunrise Bible Study group. There she realizes she is not alone in her heartache.

This book is the first in Jennifer Stanley's Hope Street Church series and it will definitely appeal to inspirational mystery readers.

—Karen Kiley

FTC Disclosure. This book was provided by the publisher.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Guest Blogger Hannah Dennison

Happy Reading! All Best Wishes!

My co-worker Tamara has been one of my staunchest supporters from the very beginning of my writing career. Over the past ten years she has lived through my painful relationship with screenwriting in the ever fickle world of Hollywood; listened to my “I’ll never get published” cries of anguish during the dark years of writing into a black hole and—at last—graciously bought a copy of each of my three books.

So it was with a sense of deep shame that her comment “You have written the same inscription to me in each book,” cut me to the quick. Guilty as charged. It wasn’t deliberate. In fact, I only have six different “personal inscriptions” that I trot out at book signings. If someone buys all three books at once, I practically have a coronary. One author bemoaned the fact that someone dumped 18 books on his table (I’d kill for that kind of problem) and asked that each one be inscribed differently.

I sigh with audible relief when someone says, “Just sign your name” which is immediately followed by a subconscious, “Why? Is he or she going to sell it on Amazon? Give it to Goodwill?”

If friends compare inscription notes, I cringe with embarrassment. I see disappointment on their faces. How can I have written novels of 85,000 words but I am unable to come up with an original, witty, personal-to-you one-liner? And what about fellow authors who buy my books? There can be no lame “Happy Wishes” or “Enjoy!” for my kindred spirits. It’s insulting. Surely, they deserve some more thought?

Who started this inscription lark anyway? Do author signings illuminate the bond between writer and reader? Do inscriptions give a sense of responsibility? Are there rules? Is it arrogant to sign one’s full name when inscribing to a family member or a close friend? Are inscriptions supposed to give an air of permanence?

We’ve all heard the horror stories. Rumor has it that George Bernard Shaw once inscribed one of his books “To ---, with esteem.” Years later he found the book in an antiquarian bookshop, whereupon he bought it and sent it back to his friend with the addendum, “To ----, with renewed esteem.”

The next question is—where do we store all those signed books? I have a friend who devotes an entire closet to “author friends’ books” that she admits she will probably never read. Another says she rents a storage space. As for me, I always keep personalized books and yes I do read them all, eventually. There is a something very magical in meeting the author—friend or stranger—that makes that book come truly alive. A personal inscription is very dear and cherished. It’s one thing I intend to improve upon for my fourth book release Thieves! (January 2011). And Tamara—I promise, my inscription to you will blow your socks off.

Hannah Dennison is the author of the Vicky Hill Mysteries chronicling the adventures of obituary reporter extraordinaire in the British market town of Gipping-on-Plym. Her most recent book is Exposé. Please visit her website.

Unarmed But Dangerous Tour

If you missed this tour, you might enjoy seeing the photos. If you saw it, you'll really want to see the pictures!

Unarmed But Dangerous Tour

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Macavity Nominations 2010

Janet Rudolph has just announced the 2010 Macavity Nominations on her Mystery Readers International website. Congratulations to all these great writers!

Best Novel
Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott (Simon & Schuster)
Tower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman (Busted Flush Press)
Necessary as Blood by Deborah Crombie (Wm. Morrow)
Nemesis by Jo Nesbo, translated by Don Bartlett (HarperCollins)
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
The Shanghai Moon by S.J. Rozan (Minotaur)

Best First Novel
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Delacorte)
Running from the Devil by Jamie Freveletti (Wm. Morrow)
A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield (Minotaur)
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville (Soho Crime)
A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn (Picador)

Best Nonfiction
L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City by John Buntin (Random House: Harmony Books)
Talking about Detective Fiction by P.D. James (Alfred A. Knopf)
Rogue Males: Conversations & Confrontations About the Writing Life by Craig McDonald (Bleak House Books)
The Line Up: The World's Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives, edited by Otto Penzler (Little, Brown & Co)
Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo (Penguin Press)
Dame Agatha's Shorts: An Agatha Christie Short Story Companion by Elena Santangelo (Bella Rosa Books)

Sue Feder Historical
A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell (Forge)
In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff (Minotaur)
A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd (Wm. Morrow)
Serpent in the Thorns by Jeri Westerson (Minotaur)
Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear (Henry Holt)

Best Short Story
"Last Fair Deal Gone Down" by Ace Atkins in Crossroad Blues (Busted Flush Press)
"Femme Sole" by Dana Cameron in Boston Noir (Akashic Books)
"Digby, Attorney at Law" by Jim Fusilli, (AHMM, May 2009)
"Your Turn" by Carolyn Hart in Two of the Deadliest (Harper)
"On the House" by Hank Phillippi Ryan in Quarry: Crime Stories by New England Writers (Level Best Books)
"The Desert Here and the Desert Far Away" by Marcus Sakey in Thriller 2: Stories You Just Can’t Put Down (Mira)
"Amapola" by Luis Alberto Urrea in Phoenix Noir (Akashic Books

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Revenge for Old Times Sake by Kris Neri (Cherokee McGhee)

Tracy Eaton, a mystery writer and daughter of Hollywood stars, is married to a straight old money attorney. Drew and Tracy’s families are at opposite ends of the dysfunctional spectrum. Revenge begins with Drew's behaving very out of character by punching his boss in the face. Of course, his boss turns up floating face down in the Eaton pool the next day and Drew is arrested. Tracy sets out to prove her husband is innocent.

Meanwhile, Drew’s mother arrives in town. Charlotte has never liked Tracy or her family (maybe it has to do with the black eye Tracy’s mother gave her at the wedding?). Charlotte hires Drew’s ex-flame, Cee Cee, to defend him but she is acting peculiar. Is Cee Cee trying to get Drew back or to get revenge? Like any good screwball story, there are so many twists and turns it actually becomes believable. The characters are zany and a little—actually a lot—crazy. It is a fast and fun read—perfect for the beach or pool!

—Helen Jones

FTC Disclosure - This book was provided by the publisher.

DEATH THREADS by Elizabeth Lynn Casey (Berkley)

Tori Sinclair is a Yankee librarian who has relocated to Sweet Briar, SC. The local sewing circle ladies of all ages and backgrounds have taken her under their wing to teach her to be Southern. These ladies are people you want to be friends with—most of the time. They do like to gossip but are loyal to each other and the town. This loyalty sometimes causes conflict between the members.

Leona, a non-sewing or cooking member is teaching Tori the “southern way.” Leona has a bet with her twin sister, Margaret Louise (who does sew and is a great cook), that she will learn to sew under Tori's tutelage, but Leona can come up with some very creative excuses.

Meanwhile, another member’s husband, Colby Calhoun, disappears leaving a bloody trail. Previously he has made the town, including the members of the circle, very angry by exposing the truth about the destruction of the town during the “War of Northern Aggression.” Tori is determined to find his body and solve the case. She thinks the town and police are not doing enough because of the anger over his exposé.

There is also a little romance for Tori, Leona, and Ella May Vetter (the town’s eccentric old maid) to make this a true chic-lit mystery.

—Helen Jones

FTC Disclosure - This book was provided by the publisher.

61 Hours by Lee Child (Delacorte Press)

Needing a lift, Jack Reacher talked his way onto a bus of elderly sightseers when the bus skids on a snowy highway. Now he is stuck in Bolton, South Dakota in the middle of a snow storm under unusual circumstances: The police department has the town in a virtual lockdown. They're coping with a potential riot at a Federal prison five miles away, protecting a witness to a methamphetamine transaction, and dealing with a biker gang which is apparently the source of the drugs. Further, the whole situation may be controlled by an international gangster. When the attorney who is the go-between between the bikers and the cartel is murdered, it's obvious that time is running out.

Jack Reacher fans know the pace of the story will be non-stop and heart pounding. Fans of Child never have to be convinced, but neophytes will definitely enjoy a good summer read!

--Stephen Bank

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Unarmed But Dangerous Tour

What a grand few days I've just spent with the aforementioned tour! Donna Andrews, Meredith Cole, Rosemary Harris, and Elaine Viets agreed to honor me with a visit to North Carolina. We had panels and signings at eigiht—count 'em, eightgreat venues: McIntyre's, Flyleaf Books, and The Regulator Bookstore on Saturday; The Halle Center in Apex on Sunday; the Jamestown Public Library and the Page-Walker Hotel (co-sponsored by the Cary Library) on Monday; and the Country Bookshop and Quail Ridge Books on Tuesday.

Donna, Meredith, and Elaine chat with a fan at the Halle Center while other fans chat with Rosemary.

Not only did Karen Kiley (and her wonderful patrons) give door prizes at the Page-Walker, they sent a great "sunflower" loaf of bread, peanut butter, and jelly home with us for our Tuesday morning breakfast! That's Doreen Wheaton with Rosesmary.

We were invited for Sunday evening supper at Margaret and Joe Maron's. What an evening that was! Joining our crew were area writers Sarah Shaber, Bren Bonner, Katy Munger, Alexandra Sokoloff, and Diane Chamberlain. The outstanding company was highlighted beautifully by the imminently Carolina supper—shrimp and grits. Margaret's recipe was well worth our falling off the diet wagon! The local writers brought an incredibly tempting selection of desserts.

Bren shared these photos of the group.

I can't imagine a better way to spend a weekend! Can you?

SILENT AUCTION by Jane Cleland (Minotaur)

Jane Cleland's Silent Auction continues the story of antiques dealer Josie Prescott. After five years of living in the coastal town of Rocky Point, New Hampshire Josie has achieved business success, peace, love, and happiness in her life. However, that sense of security is destroyed when she discovers the body of a young employee. Everyone thought Frankie, the beloved nephew of Josie's closest friend Zoe, had overcome his violent past. A new police chief, wealthy summer residents, and the local art community are entwined in solving the murder of this turbulent young man.

Cleland's expertise in the field of antiques and fine arts shines throughout this story. The art, history and business of scrimshaw is a fascinating aspect to this intricate mystery. Once again Jane Cleland has written a very informative and well-crafted mystery.

--Karen Kiley

FTC Full Disclosure - Book provided by publisher

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Guest Blogger Chris Grabenstein

Stopping by the Idea Depot

Where do you get your ideas?

That is probably the most frequently asked question I get at author readings, right up there with “do you use a computer or write by hand?”

In response, I usually say, “At the Idea Depot. They give you a nice discount if you buy in bulk.” And then I regale the audience with a “What if?” and “And then…” exercise. For instance, when coming up with the idea for ROLLING THUNDER, the sixth book in my Anthony Award winning Ceepak mystery series that just came out this month (see how I worked in a plug there?), I asked myself “What if somebody really had a heart attack on a roller coaster, like all those signs along the waiting line warn you about?” And then -- the person who has the heart attack is the wife of the roller coaster tycoon, a very prominent citizen in my Jersey Shore town of Sea Haven. And then -- all of her children are glad she is dead, which makes Ceepak suspicious. Was it a heart attack or something more sinister? And then -- another dead body is found. And then -- the two deaths are connected.

And so on and so on for all the ups and downs, twists and turns of my narrative roller coaster ride.

However, this past week, at a bookstore event in my old home town of Metuchen, New Jersey, someone asked, “You ever think about writing a mystery about the carnies, the scruffy people who work the boardwalk?”

And boom. I didn’t answer for a second. Because my mental roller coaster wheels started spinning, racing through the rough outline for Ceepak mystery #7.

All of a sudden I saw this “Knock ‘Em Down” game booth on the Jersey Shore boardwalk of my mind. It’s early morning. First thing in the morning, the young dude working the early shift opens up the front plywood flap and sees something horrible. Hanging up there, right in the middle of all the Clifford The Big Red Dog, Spider Man and Sponge Bob prizes, there’s a dead body dangling from a peg on the wall.

And then, the dead guy is someone the dude knows, a friend who works the booth late at night. And then, maybe the dead guy, we find out, was selling more than a chance to knock down milk bottles with a softball; he was selling Snuki and the Situation (okay, not them, I promise) their nickel bags of dope and crack cocaine. And then, maybe this character of Skeletor, a drug dealer who’s been lurking around the Ceepak books since MAD MOUSE and more ore less escaped in HELL HOLE, is involved. And then, Tony Soprano shows up…

Okay, maybe not Tony Soprano, either, but, well, New Jersey is famous for its mob connections, especially in the drug trade (not the kind they make near Rahway at Merck).

But, I think, if there is a Ceepak #7, it will be called KNOCK ‘EM DOWN and start with a body in a game booth, blood staining the bright yellow fuzz on Sponge Bob’s smiling face. I will need to do some grueling research this August down the shore in Seaside Heights (yes, that Seaside Heights, the one where MTV films their JERSEY SHORE with the real Snuki and The Situation who don’t look all that real). I will have to eat orange and white swirl cones and eavesdrop on carnies who chant things like “Win a Tweetie for your Sweetie.”  

That night, on the train ride home from Metuchen, I started jotting down all sorts of twists and turns. I think I know what happened. If ROLLING THUNDER sells well and the publisher wants another book, I’m ready to rock.

So, I guess that question about where do ideas come from can now be answered, “Sometimes they come from question and answer sessions just like this one when someone asks a very interesting question, the kind that makes you say, ‘What if….’”

Chris Grabenstein just won his second Agatha Award for Best Children's/Young Adult mystery for The Hanging Hill. He invites readers of all ages to visit his website.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

2010 Nero Award Nominees

I just got this news release from Jane Cleland of the Wolfe Pack


The Nero Award is presented each year to an author for the best mystery written in the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories. It is presented at the Black Orchid Banquet, traditionally held on the first Saturday in December in New York City. The Nero Award celebrates literary excellence in the mystery genre.

This year, the nominees are:


2. CRACK IN THE LENS. Steve Hockensmith.

3. FACES OF THE GONE. Brad Parks.

All three titles are published by St. Martin's Minotaur. Past winners have included Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child, and Martha Grimes, among many others.

The Wolfe Pack, the literary society that celebrates all things Nero Wolfe, also presents the Black Orchid Novella Award (BONA) in partnership with Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine to celebrate the Novella format popularized by Rex Stout. The BONA is also announced at the Black Orchid Banquet in December.

About the Wolfe Pack
The Wolfe Pack, founded in 1977, is a forum to discuss, explore, and enjoy the 72 Nero Wolfe books and novellas written by Rex Stout. The organization promotes fellowship and extends friendship to those who enjoy these great literary works of mystery through a series of events, book discussions, and a journal devoted to the study of the genius detective, Nero Wolfe, and his intrepid assistant, Archie Goodwin. The organization has more than 450 members worldwide.

To learn more, visit the website.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Guest Blogger Julie Hyzy

Getting to Know Grace

Grace Under Pressure, first in my new Manor House Mystery series, debuts today. In many ways it’s similar to my White House Chef Mysteries—giant mansion, servants, murder—but instead of a president, the resident-in-chief is Bennett Marshfield, an extremely wealthy recluse who trusts very few people—generally only those he’s known for forty years or more.

Assistant curator, Grace Wheaton, has just started working at Marshfield and she’s only in her thirties, which means she’s facing an uphill battle where Bennett is concerned. Especially after head curator, Abe, Bennett’s first in command and dearest friend, is murdered.

As she attempts to win Bennett’s confidence and help him bring Abe’s killer to justice, Grace finds herself confronting skeletons in her own family’s closet. With the support of her roommates and that of handsome gardener, Jack Embers, Grace finds herself protecting and defending the home she loves almost as much as her own.

Researching this series has been an absolute joy, and I have Molly to thank for that. She arranged the Triple Threat Tour for Hank Phillippi Ryan, Karen E. Olson, and me this past February. I’d been working on the manuscript for Grace Under Pressure when Molly first invited me to visit North Carolina. My first reaction was: “Absolutely!” I love Molly—she’s great—and the opportunity to tour with Hank and Karen was way too tempting to pass up. My second reaction was: “North Carolina? Near Biltmore?” I’d always wanted to go there and I knew that visit to the estate would help me with research for Marshfield. I didn’t hesitate to tell Molly I was in.

We had a fabulous time visiting bookstores and libraries, and eating barbecue. Yum! I got my first look at the breathtaking Chapel Hill Blue Sky above UNC and enjoyed the hospitality of many kind and wonderful people. The energetic and always upbeat Karen Kiley arranged for an evening reception with music and refreshments and—best of all—a roomful of eager readers. After our tour I had a truer, more vivid feel for North Carolina. And after visiting the Biltmore Estate on my own, I came to know my fictional Marshfield Manor even better than I had before.

Let me state unequivocally that Marshfield is not Biltmore in disguise. Not even close. Although Marshfield is just as opulent and serves as a major tourist attraction and museum the same way Biltmore does, Marshfield is slightly smaller, and has fallen far behind the times. Grace may have been put in charge of her beloved manor, but she’s still a stranger to most of the staff. She needs to lead while finding the best way to fit in.

When we were in winding down our Triple Threat Tour, Hank turned to me and said she envied me because my departure to Biltmore would signal the beginning of my next adventure. I loved that—loved how it made me feel. And during my four-hour drive to Asheville, I replayed her words in my mind. This trip was my chance to immerse myself in a way I could never experience at home— to pretend I was Grace. To live and breathe and see and smell the history and mystery and wealth very few enjoy. To experience it as Grace might—close enough to touch, but still an outsider.

So thank you Molly, Karen, and Hank! Until I received the invitation that ultimately put us together for our whirlwind tour, I had no plans to visit North Carolina. But thanks to Molly, I not only experienced the best book tour I’ve ever encountered, I got a chance to live my own Marshfield moment. And I can’t wait to go back.