Saturday, April 4, 2020

DERRINGER FINALISTS: Short Mystery Fiction Society

The Short Mystery Fiction Society announced the Finalists for the 2020 Derringer Awards. Since 1998, the Short Mystery Fiction Society has awarded the annual Derringers—after the popular pocket pistol—to outstanding published stories. The awards recognize outstanding stories published during 2019. Results of membership voting are scheduled to be posted on May 1, 2020.
Trey Dowell
The Two-Body Problem
Josh Pachter
2 Percent
Lissa Marie Redmond
C J Verburg
The Six-Year-Old Serial Killer
Chris Chan


The Kindly Dark
J. B. Toner
Love, or Something Like It
Michael Bracken
A Sure Thing
C.C. Guthrie
On the Road with Mary Jo
John Floyd
Pig Lickin’ Good
Debra H. Goldstein


Miss Starr’s Good-bye
Leslie Budewitz
None Shall Sleep
Sylvia Maultash Warsh
Pretty Dreams
Peter W. J. Hayes
See Humble and Die
Rick Helms
Lucy's Tree
Sandra Murphy


Her Sister's Secrets
Brendan DuBois
The Cripplegate Apprehension
Rick Helms
The Concrete Smile
Frank Zafiro
The Dutchy
Doug Allyn
I Called to Say You're Dead
Stephen Greco


Passover this year will be celebrated differently since we're all Sheltered-in-Place. No communal seder, except those on Zoom and Loom and other crowd sharing sites. Nevertheless, since you're home and Passover lasts for eight days, you should have plenty of time to read several of these books. Most are available as eBooks from your library, other eBook sites, or favorite bookstores. As always, let me know any missing titles.

Passover Crime Fiction

Passover by Aphrodite Anagnost
Conspirators by Michael Andre Bernstein 
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks 
The Passover Murder by Lee Harris 
All Other Nights by Dara Horn
Never Nosh a Matzo Ball by Sharon Kahn
Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home by Harry Kemelman 
The Fixer by Bernard Malamed
The Wolf and the Lamb by Frederick Ramsay
The Samaritans' Secret by Matt Beynon Rees
Mrs Kaplan and the Matzo Ball of Death by Mark Reutlinger
Unleavened Dead by Ilene Schneider
The Passover Plot by Hugh J. Schonfield 
The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra
The Lord is My Shepherd by Debbie Viguie (on my Easter list, too!)
The Big Nap by Ayelet Waldman 
The Fifth Servant by Kenneth Wishnia

Passover Short Stories in the following collections:
Criminal Kabbalah, edited by Laurie R. King
Murder is No Mitzvah, edited by Abigail Browning
Mystery Midrash, edited by Rabbi Lawrence Raphael

There are several children's and YA Passover Mysteries including:
Jodie's Passover Adventure by Anna Levine

Check out Molly Odintz's 10 Reasons Why Passover is the Noirest Holiday on CrimeReads.

Celebrating the holiday? Check out for Chocolate Passover Recipes.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Three Hours in Paris: Guest Post by Cara Black


Today the world has changed and we’re in uncharted waters. I’m trying hard to wrap my head around how to help readers find THREE HOURS IN PARIS, and think about its relevance today since this interview I did with my editor. On one level my book is a story about resistance and the fight against fascism. We’re living in a time when so much going on echoes the past. Yet, given a situation like the one Kate Rees, my protagonist, finds her self in; choosing to fight back in a way she can, lends itself to today. Fighting back can be interpreted in everyday ways; speaking out, questioning and making your voices heard ie #metoo. Not all of us would or could fight back Kate’s way but every act of resistance is Resistance.

Kate to me is an everywoman - a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife - who finding herself against the circumstances of war and tragedy, struggles and persists and doesn’t let up. She knows the world wasn’t always like this. That it will pass but in so doing there’s a toll taken. Yes, her struggle and survival is hopeful because it’s about persisting and doing what you feel is the right thing. Hope you’re staying safe and reading all the books in your TBR pile!

An Interview with Author Cara Black and Her Editor Juliet Grames 
(reprinted with permission of Cara Black and Juliet Grimes)

What made you decide to write a story about a female assassin? 

CB: Years ago, I read my father’s copy of The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth, and then I saw the 1973 film. This is the tale of a brilliant for-hire assassin tasked by the OAS with killing de Gaulle. Pitted against him are the government, who flounder in the dark to prevent the assassination attempt until they draft one of their own Parisian police. It’s a riveting cat-and-mouse story—we know before reading that de Gaulle survived, but it’s still so suspenseful, so tense, so delicately balanced. My throat catches every time I rewatch the film, which I do every year. Every time I pass the Montparnasse train station I look up at the Jackal’s window where he was aiming at de Gaulle and calculate the rifle angle. I think that inspired my window for Kate in Montmartre. I wanted to try my hand at writing an assassin story—but with my own spin, one that could include pieces of the WWII resistance history I have hoarded over twenty years of researching the Aimée Leduc novels in Paris. 

But there was also a historical template for female assassins in WWII. The Russian army had a regiment of highly successful female snipers. The star female assassin, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, was credited with 309 kills, the highest of a woman and in the top five of all snipers. In 1943 she was invited to the White House, met Eleanor Roosevelt and toured the USA. Of course, the United States didn’t enter the war until after Pearl Harbor in 1941 but I was still intrigued by that what if: What if an American woman had been a sniper in WWII? Why not?

I read a newspaper article in 2010 about the death of a quiet and reclusive elderly lady in a British coastal town. The woman had no known relatives and no friends, but when local authorities entered her home they found she was far from the typical pensioner. They discovered among her possessions a medal from Britain as well as France’s highest wartime honor, the Croix de Guerre. She was Eileen Nearne—aka Agent Rose, one of the female spies dispatched by Britain into occupied France in World War II by the SOE. Eileen Nearne became a clandestine radio operator, was caught and put in Ravensbrück but survived. There are stories like this that beg to be told; women who worked as spies, who signed the Official Secrets Act during the war and never broke their silence.

Kate to me is an everywoman—a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife—who, due to tragedy and loss in war, seeks revenge and rises to the challenge of using her skill set. In war time, “doing one’s part” is a larger-than-life task, and so rising to the challenge includes becoming a larger-than-life character.

During the Second World War, secret services around the world knew women made perfect agents: in many ways, they were invisible as a man wouldn’t be. As innocent as they might appear while walking with a basket of eggs or mopping a floor, they could escape detection and perform sabotage, set up resistance networks, operate radios, and infiltrate occupied buildings as cleaners, mail couriers, housewives. The possibilities were endless.

Kate is recruited by a British intelligence officer to work for Section D, a deniable branch that specializes in foreign interference and sabotage. How much of your description of Section D is real? 

CB: Section D was real, and some of its records have even survived the war and been declassified, although of course many more were destroyed, so it is impossible to know its full scope and nature. I envision a clandestine department that specialized in missions like Kate’s—ungentlemanly war, fought by recruits of Irregulars who performed sabotage and assassinations in Occupied Europe.

What about the technology you mention? Was it real? 

CB: All of the technology I mention has a basis in real wartime inventions, although I have taken fictional liberties. At the beginning of the war, in the British race for building airplanes and fighting equipment, many tools were also being developed for clandestine warfare. I became intrigued when I discovered information about the S-phone, very cutting-edge, which the British developed, buried in a Stanford University library archive. I was also fascinated by the way Lee Enfield rifles were adapted to sniper capabilities as prototypes before field and general operational use. There was even a lipstick gun which I was dying for Kate to use, but alas, it didn’t quite fit in the story.

Kate has very little formal training in spycraft but endless creativity for inventing ways to get herself out of jams—for surviving. Where did you get these ideas? 

CB: I was inspired by the idea of what skills Kate would have had to develop as a girl growing up on a series of Oregon ranches. Ranch work is a tough job, and would have been even harder in the 1930s. Life was subject to incessant rain, blizzards, falling trees, insect infestation or crop failure. Cattle would get stuck in barb wire, tractor tires puncture, equipment breaks—all these problems need to be solved on the fly, with few resources. One would learn to think on one’s feet, make do and get creative with what’s available. So Kate, who grew up in a rough and tumble environment with five brothers, learns to hold her own and becomes resilient.

This is your 20th book. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers about the writing life? 

CB: Just write what you’re passionate about. If there’s a what if that won’t leave you, listen to yourself.

Cartoon of the Day: Marriage Counseling

Happy National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Cartoon of the Day: April Fools!


April Fool's Day Mysteries: I love holidays--any chance to celebrate--and that's not an April Fool's joke. Here's a short list full of foolish and not so foolish mystery and murder that takes place on and around April Fool's Day! As always, let me know if I've forgotten a title!

The first of April, some do say,
Is set apart for All Fools' Day.
But why the people call it so,
Nor I, nor they themselves do know.
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment.

--Poor Robin's Almanac, 1790

The Marsh Madness by Victoria Abbott
The Case of the April Fools by Christopher Bush
April's Fool by Edna May Ciesclwicz 
A Body on April Fool's Day by Steve Demaree

April Fool by William Deverell 
The April Fool by Robert J. Fields
April Fool's Day by John Greenwood
April Fools’ Day Murder by Lee Harris
April Fool Dead by Carolyn Hart 
A Remarkable Case of Burglary by H. R. F. Keating
April Fools by Jess Loury
The Confidence Man by Herman Melville
April Fool’s Day A Novel by Josip Novakovich (not quite a mystery but with mystery elements)
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
April Fool's Day by Jeff Rovin

Short Stories:
The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Vol. 3: The April Fool’s Day Adventure and The Strange Adventure of the Uneasy Easy Chair by Anthony Boucher and Denis Green.

The April Fool's Day Mystery by Marion Markham

Meg Mackintosh and The April Fools' Day Mystery by Lucinda Landon

Monday, March 30, 2020

BIRTHDAY MYSTERIES: Happy Birthday to Me!

Today's my Birthday. Since I'm Sheltered-in-Place, I won't be celebrating with very many people, but you're welcome to celebrate virtually with me by reading one of these Birthday Themed Mysteries. Every year I get older, and the list gets longer. Raise a glass of champagne, eat a chocolate truffle, and grab a book, as you  join me Behind my Garden Gate! This is an updated list. Any titles missing? Make a comment below, and I'll add to the list!

Birthday Crime Fiction

Happy Birthday, Turk! by Jakob Arjouni and Anselm Hollo
A Birthday to Die For by Frank Atchley
Cranberry Crimes by Jessica Beck

Birthdays Can be Deadly by Cindy Bell
The Birthday Murderer by Jay Bennett
Birthday Can Be Murder by Joyce Cato
Two Little Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
A Catered Birthday Party by Isis Crawford
The Birthday Gift by Ursula Reilly Curtiss
The Birthday Party: Family Reunions Can Be Murder by Chari Davenport
The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson
The Birthday Girl by Melissa De La Cruz
There's Something about Mary by Wendy Delaney
A Birthday Secret by Nickolas Drake
Murder Can Botch Up Your Birthday by Selma Eichler
The Birthday Girl by Sue Fortin
Birthday Cake and Bodies by Agatha Frost
Birthday Sprinkle Murder by Susan Gillard
Aunti Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano
The Nanny by Dan Greenburg
The Happy Birthday Murder by Lee Harris
They Found Him Dead by Georgette Heyer
Birthday Cake Waffle by Carolyn Q. Hunter
Birthday Girl by Matthew Iden
Happy Birthday, Marge by Shari Hearn
The Birthday Treasure Mystery by Kaylee Huyser
Birthday Party by Marne Davis Kellogg
Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely
Birthday Party by C.H.B Kitchin and Adrian Wright
Spiced by Gina LaManna 
The Birthday Girl by Stephen Leather
The Birthday Murder by Lange Lewis
Creme Brulee Murder by Harper Lin
The Birthday Killer by W. Kay Lynn
Birthdays for the Dead by Stuart MacBride
False Scent by Ngaio Marsh
The Birthday Mystery by Faith Martin
Birthday Party Murder by Leslie Meier 
Many Deadly Returns by Patricia Moyes
The Body in the Casket by Katherine Hall Page 
Birthday, Deathday by Hugh Pentecost
The Birthday Club by Jack Peterson
The Birthday Party by W. Price
Birthday Dance by Peter Robinson
The Birthday Bash by Elizabeth Sorrells
Don't Scream by Wendy Corsi Staub
Sharpe Turn by Lisa B. Thomas
Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson
The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine
The Birthday Surprise by Clara Vulliamy (Children's)
The Birthday by Elizabeth Wells
The Mortician's Birthday Party by Peter Whalley
The Fortieth Birthday Body by Valerie Wolzien
The Birthday by Carol Wyer
The Birthday by Margaret Yorke

"The Birthday Dinner" by Donna Andrews in Death Dines In, edited by Claudia Bishop & Dean James

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Cartoon of the Day: Cats

CALL FOR ARTICLES: ITALIAN MYSTERIES: Mystery Readers Journal (36:2)

Hope this finds you and yours safe and well and Sheltered-in-Place.

Mystery Readers Journal (Volume 36:2)

The next issue of Mystery Readers Journal will focus on mysteries set in Italy. We're looking for Reviews, Articles, and Author! Author! essays.

Reviews: 50-250 words; Articles: 250-1000 words; Author! Author! essays: 500-1500 words.

Author essays are first person, about yourself, your books, and your unique take on mysteries set in Italy connection. Think of it as chatting with friends and other writers in the bar or cafe (or on Zoom) about your work and your Italian Mysteries connection. Add a title and 2-3 sentence bio/tagline.

Deadline: April 20, 2020

Here's a link to Mystery Readers Journal. Past themed issues.

Send to: Janet Rudolph, Editor. janet @

Please forward this request to anyone you think should be included.

Subscribe to Mystery Readers Journal. Themes in 2020: Environmental Mysteries: Italian Mysteries: Senior Sleuths: Ireland

Friday, March 27, 2020


Donis Casey:
What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do 

In 2017, I wrote a novel called Return of the Raven Mocker, which was set during the influenza pandemic of 1918. No one knows for sure how many died in the flu pandemic, but modern estimates put the number at somewhere between thirty and fifty million people worldwide. Unlike today’s health emergency, the Spanish flu mainly killed young people, and was so virulent that a person would be fine in the morning and dead by nightfall. But like now, once the disease began to spread, whole communities tried to quarantine themselves. People would mark their doors with a red “X” to let their neighbors know the family was infected. There were few doctors available because of the war, so like today, nurses were the absolute heroes, keeping people fed and looked after, and often falling ill themselves.

One of the primary research materials for my novels is always the newspapers of the time, and it was fascinating to see what people knew in 1918 and when they knew it. From the perspective of 100 years on, we know how things turned out. But, like now, they had no cure and no idea what was going to happen. In the early days of the pandemic, the government actually encouraged the press to downplay the seriousness of the situation, because the war was still going on and nothing was to be allowed to interfere with war production! (Substitute “economy” for “war production. Sound familiar?) Eventually, factories all over the United States were no longer able to stay open because most of their workers were ill, and the stories in the papers began to change radically, printing all kinds of weird and generally useless advice about how to avoid becoming sick.

More than a few people died from being dosed with turpentine, coal oil, mercury, ox bile, chicken blood, and other unmentionable home remedies they were given by their well-meaning caretakers. There are modern scientists who believe that some of the deaths in the epidemic were caused by aspirin poisoning rather than the disease. Aspirin was relatively new on the market, and folks may have figured that if a little aspirin was good for fever and aches, then eating whole handfuls every hour was even better if you were really sick.

However, when you have no cure, there are old remedies that can actually be useful.

Garlic really does have antibiotic properties, and was used a lot as a treatment during the 1918 flu outbreak. I found a recipe for garlic soup in an early Twentieth Century cookbook that was guaranteed to cure the flu. (Disclaimer - it probably didn’t cure the flu, and probably won’t cure COVID-19) It called for 24 cloves of garlic to be simmered for an hour in a quart of water. That sounds like it would kill any germ that dares to try and infect you.

Ginger tea is practically a cure for nausea. Boil a slice of fresh ginger in a cup of water until the water turns golden and sip it hot. I like to sweeten mine with honey.

Dry burned toast (just charred on top) is excellent for an upset stomach and diarrhea. Well-cooked, soft rice is easy to digest, and if you simmer one part raw rice in seven parts liquid for forty minutes to an hour, the rice ends up creamy and soft and practically pre-digested. Onion is antibiotic as well. My great-grandmother swore that placing a bowl of raw onions in a sick room would absorb the ill-humors. Here is a story that was told to me by the person to whom it happened: when he was a young boy, he developed such a severe case of pneumonia that the doctor told his mother that he was not going to survive. In an act of desperation, his mother sliced up a raw onion and bound it to the bottoms of his feet with strips of sheet, then put cotton socks on him. In the morning, his fever had broken, his lungs had cleared, and the onion poultice had turned black. Is that what saved him? I don’t know. But that didn’t keep me from using the idea in my book.

In fact, I found a number of remedies that called for binding something to the feet. An 1879 cookbook recommended taking a large horseradish leaf, placing it on a hot shovel to soften if, then folding it and fastening it in the hollow of the foot with a cloth bandage. I also found foot-poultice recipes that used burdock leaves, cabbage, and mullein. All the above are guaranteed to “alleviate pain and promote perspiration”.

Chicken soup really, really does help. Your mother says so, and so does science.

My grandmother’s favorite remedy for fever, cold, or flu, was a hot toddy. She swore that this never failed to break a fever and rouse a sweat. A hot toddy is made thus:

1 teacup hot water
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon sugar
1 jigger Scotch whiskey

My grandmother was so enamored of this curative that she made it often, just as a preventative.

As for 2020 and this novel coronavirus, do as the doctors say. Wash your hands, Dear Readers, keep your distance, and stay safe.

Donis Casey is the author of The Wrong Girl, the first episode of a fresh new series starring Bianca LaBelle, star of the silent screen action serial, The Adventures of Bianca Dangereuse. Donis is also the author of ten Alafair Tucker Mysteries, an award-winning series featuring the sleuthing mother of ten children, set in Oklahoma during the booming 1910s.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


From Hallie Ephron comes the sad news of the passing of Kate Mattes, proprietor of Kate's Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, and a big supporter of mysteries. I was privileged to meet her several times at Malice Domestic and Bouchercon. And, as I remember, she wanted to put in a Boston bid for Bcon, but couldn't find the right venue. That was all a long time ago. I will add to this post and link to tributes as they come in.

From Hallie Ephron on Facebook:

Sad news: Kate Mattes died yesterday. The news comes from her sister Emily McAdoo via Thomas Lyons: "Kate passed away yesterday in Vermont. It was a sudden cardiac event, and she had been in poor health and getting weaker all along." A memorial/reflection will be planned.)

Here's a bit from a blog I wrote when the bookstore closed: "Kate’s Mystery Books closed its doors after more than 20 years as New England’s premier mystery bookstore. Scores of authors and readers showed up to help Kate pack up, as in true Kate’s style she threw a packing party. It was as hard to get to an empty packing box as it was to get to the wine at one of her famous Xmas parties. I scored a cat at the yard sale.

"Every New England mystery author I know launches his or her books at Kate’s, and looking at the table of signed books (which we were specifically told NOT to pack), it was clear how Kate’s has been a stopping point for the crème de la crème of crime fiction writers. Just a few of the megastars I’ve met at Kate’s: Sue Grafton, Sarah Paretsky, Robert B. Parker, Dennis Lehane, Katherine Hall Page, Jane Langton...."

Cartoon of the Day: Zoom Meeting

How A Rescue Dog Spawned a Character: Guest Post by Melinda Leigh

Melinda Leigh: 
How A Rescue Dog Spawned a Character

Readers who are familiar with my work know I usually include a dog in my books. Cross Her Heart introduces Ladybug, a chubby pointer mix my heroine is manipulated into adopting in order to help her overcome her fear of dogs. This entire character storyline grew from my adoption of the actual Ladybug.

We had lost our bulldog mix to a heart attack while I was finishing up the Morgan Dane series. Roxy had been treated for heartworm when she first came to live with us. Despite treatment, she likely had suffered permanent heart damage. We were all devastated, but our other dog, a spaniel/dachshund mix we adopted ten years earlier, was devastated at the loss of his companion. This proved to be a challenge. Bandit is um… feisty. Ironically, he does not get along well with other dogs, especially males. But he clearly needed another strong female in his life. So, the search began.

There were several candidates who didn’t make the cut. Bandit hated all of them. That’s hate with a capital H.

Then we found Ladybug at a local rescue. She had just finished her own heartworm treatment, which made me hesitate in setting up a meet. We’d just lost a dog to these terrible parasites. I didn’t know if I wanted to take that risk again. But most of the strays in the South seem to be afflicted, and ultimately, my husband and I decided we would give a home to dogs that needed one, and if she had health problems, we would deal with them.

We are so very glad we made that decision. The first time Ladybug and Bandit were introduced, he growled and snapped at her. She had zero reaction. Zero. She didn’t even seem to register that he’d been a jerk. She was pleasant and happy and completely unbothered by his bad attitude. She was also cool with screaming kids, skateboards, and bouncing basketballs. She wanted to make friends with every dog and person in the park. Her tail was docked, but she wagged her whole butt. Her disposition was so lovely, I knew we’d gotten very lucky. She was perfect!

We had several more meetings, just to make sure Bandit would accept her. Once we got her into our house, he bonded with her almost immediately. We all did. I am happy to report, more than a year later, that the dogs are the best of friends. They do everything together. Bandit has even grown calmer. Some of Ladybug’s chill has clearly rubbed off on the little maniac.

Having Ladybug in my life made me think about how unintimidating she is, despite being a rather large dog. She has a goofy expression and almost never barks. Because writers are weird, it was then that the opposite situation occurred to me, and the idea of a main character with a deep-seated fear of dogs was born. How much would a fear of dogs interfere with a police detective’s job? She would be forced to work with large, aggressive K-9s in a police department. She would run across dogs in both her personal and professional life.

I already had the basis of my character. Bree Taggert was the survivor of the murder-suicide of her parents. But Bree needed a more concrete challenge to overcome, something more than a terrible past, something that would carry over into her present and make her life difficult on a daily basis. So, I gave her a childhood mauling, a terrible mental and physical scar to go along with her fear. To complicate matters further, I gave her a former K-9 cop as a counterpart.

And I gave her Ladybug. You’ll have to read Cross Her Heart to see how this all works out.

Melinda Leigh is a fully recovered banker. After joining Romance Writers of America, she decided writing was more fun than analyzing financial statements. Melinda’s debut novel, She Can Run, was nominated for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers. She’s also garnered Golden Leaf and Silver Falchion Awards, along with two nominations for a RITA and three Daphne du Maurier Awards. Her other novels include She Can Tell, She Can Scream, She Can Hide, She Can Kill, Midnight Exposure, Midnight Sacrifice, Midnight Betrayal, Midnight Obsession, Hour of Need, Minutes to Kill, Seconds to Live, Say You’re Sorry, Her Last Goodbye, Bones Don’t Lie, What I’ve Done, Secrets Never Die, and Save Your Breath. She holds a second-degree black belt in Kenpo karate, has taught women’s self-defense, and lives in a messy house with her family and a small herd of rescue pets. For more information, visit

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

WHY CAPE COD? Guest post by Maddie Day aka Edith Maxwell

MADDIE DAY aka Edith Maxwell:
Why Cape Cod?

Janet, thank you for inviting me – and my alter-ego Maddie Day – to your blog!

My latest book, Murder at the Taffy Shop is the second Cozy Capers Book Group mystery. The series is set in a fictional town on Cape Cod. I live in Massachusetts but way north at the opposite border, half a mile from New Hampshire, a drive of almost three hours. So what do I know about Cape Cod, anyway?

Five or six years ago I learned about a Quaker retreat cottage nestled behind the West Falmouth Friends meetinghouse. West Falmouth is a quiet former fishing village on enormous Buzzard’s Bay, with a west-facing coastline. I’m a Quaker of many years, and I rented the cottage for a week during the off season for a solo writing retreat. I was able to write SO much that I started going twice a year. No wi-fi in the cottage helps, too (but the public library is across the street in case of wi-fi emergency).

Artists flock to the Cape for a reason. I don’t know why, but the light is different there, colors are more intense, skies are more dramatic. And everyone has heard of iconic Cape Cod, whether they have visited in person or not. When my Kensington editor and I were tossing around ideas for this series and he suggested the Cape, I jumped on it.

I decided to create a fictional town for all the reasons authors do: I can make up streets, stores, and restaurants. I can invent a lighthouse and a beach and not worry that readers will call me out on something I got wrong. The town of Falmouth, to the south of West Falmouth (don’t ask, I have no idea, since there’s also a north Falmouth which is to the east of West Falmouth...), is a bustling coastal town. And while Cape Cod has an Eastham, it doesn’t have a Westham. Bingo – I had my cozy village.

These days my trips to West Falmouth are for research as well as super-productive writing sprees. I love checking out what’s blooming in May and the colors in October and January. I soak up the smell of the tidal pools, the sight of ospreys soaring overhead, the hues of beach rosehips ripening and poison ivy reddening.

But the cottage is rented to a family all summer, and Murder at the Taffy Shop is set in early August, peak tourist season. I love the beach, but the Cape in August? Fugeddabout it. Still, I’ve been there in early September, and I know what beachy towns are like.

This part of the Cape features the lovely Shining Sea Trail, a walking and biking path on the former railbed. Bicyclists love the Cape, because it’s pretty and mostly flat. My protagonist, Mac Almeida, owns a bike rental, repair, and retail shop, so avid cyclists and the trail feature prominently in the books. I also knew about the Falmouth Road Race, an internationally famed seven-miler held in early August. Mac’s boyfriend Tim is a runner, so that went in, too.

And then we have the somewhat meta premise of a cozy mystery about a book group that only reads cozy mysteries. Again, my editor suggested the book group idea. I was the one who took it the extra step. In my experience – and Murder at the Taffy Shop is my 20th novel – cozy fans read a lot. I mean, a lot. The group Mac is in is named the Cozy Capers – because Cape Cod. They read and discuss a book a week, which isn’t a stretch.

Westham is a cozy town with a core group of shop owners and town officials who are part of the book group. Mac is devoted to her family, who all live in town. But that doesn’t exempt her and her fellow Cozy Capers from dealing with real social and interpersonal issues. And bodies!

I love writing this series, and readers seem to be loving reading it, too.

When bike shop owner Mac Almeida heads out for a walk with her friend, she finds a horrified Gin staring at an imperious summer person, dead on the sidewalk in front of Gin’s candy shop, Salty Taffy’s. When the police find the murder weapon in Gin’s garage, the Cozy Capers book group members put their heads together to clear Gin’s name and figure out who killed the woman whom almost everyone disliked. After the killer later invades Mac’s tiny house to finish her off, Belle, Mac’s African Gray parrot, comes to the rescue. Murder at the Taffy Shop is out March 31 in a one-year paperback exclusive from Barnes & Noble.  

Readers: What are your book group experiences, or would you rather read solo? Do you prefer seaside, mountaintop, or big city downtown?


Maddie Day – aka Edith Maxwell – is a talented amateur chef and holds a PhD in Linguistics from Indiana University. An Agatha-nominated and bestselling author, she is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America and pens the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries and the Country Store Mysteries. As Edith she writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and award-winning short crime fiction. Maddie/Edith lives with her beau north of Boston, where she’s currently working on her next mystery when she isn’t cooking up something delectable in the kitchen. She hopes you'll visit her on her web sitesign up for her monthly newsletter, and visit her as @MaddieDayAuthor on social media. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Monday, March 23, 2020

2020 LEFTY AWARDS: Left Coast Crime

Virtual Presentation of the 2020 Lefty Awards

March 23, 2020

Welcome to the Virtual Presentation of the 2020 Lefty Awards!

The voting for the Left Coast 2020 Lefty Awards has just concluded. Thanks to everyone who voted despite the change in our usual procedure.
Please join us as we acknowledge the nominees and congratulate the winners.

Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel

The nominees are
  • Ellen Byron, Fatal Cajun Festival (Crooked Lane Books)
  • Leslie Karst, Murder from Scratch (Crooked Lane Books)
  • Cynthia Kuhn, The Subject of Malice (Henery Press)
  • Catriona McPherson, Scot & Soda (Midnight Ink)
  • Wendall Thomas, Drowned Under (Poisoned Pen Press)
(DRUMROLL…) The Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel goes to

                       Catriona McPherson for Scot & Soda


Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel

The nominees are
  • Susanna Calkins, Murder Knocks Twice (Minotaur Books)
  • L.A. Chandlar, The Pearl Dagger (Kensington Books)
  • Dianne Freeman, A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder (Kensington Books)
  • Jennifer Kincheloe, The Body in Griffith Park (Seventh Street Books)
  • Sujata Massey, The Satapur Moonstone (Soho Crime)
(DRUMROLL…) The Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel goes to

                       Sujata Massey for The Satapur Moonstone



Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel

The nominees are
  • Tori Eldridge, The Ninja Daughter (Agora Books)
  • Angie Kim, Miracle Creek (Sarah Crichton Books)
  • Tara Laskowski, One Night Gone (Graydon House)
  • John Vercher, Three-Fifths (Agora Books)
  • Carl Vonderau, Murderabilia (Midnight Ink)
(DRUMROLL…) The Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel goes to

                       Carl Vonderau for Murderabilia


Lefty for Best Mystery Novel

The nominees are
  • Steph Cha, Your House Will Pay (Ecco)
  • Tracy Clark, Borrowed Time (Kensington Books)
  • Matt Coyle, Lost Tomorrows (Oceanview Publishing)
  • Rachel Howzell Hall, They All Fall Down (Forge Books)
  • Attica Locke, Heaven, My Home (Mulholland Books)
(DRUMROLL…) The Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel goes to

                       Matt Coyle for Lost Tomorrows


ACADEMIA: A Nest of Vipers: Guest Post by LEV RAPHAEL

Lev Raphael: 
Academia: A Nest of Vipers

Over the years and on many book tours for my mysteries, people have asked me "Is academia as vicious as all that?"

The answer is Absolutely. How do I know? Because I not only escaped that world with lots of notes, but I have many friends who are still there, reporting one fiction-worthy incident after another to me.

I'll start with a minor example that shows you how petty and small-minded academia can be. Back in 2011, I was invited to teach at Michigan State University's English department, where I had earned my PhD years before. The current chair had realized via a news story that I had published more books than the entire creative writing faculty put together. He was impressed, and I was flattered.

When I started teaching, the office manager wouldn't order a plastic name plate for my office door, the kind that all the faculty members had. We’re talking about something that costs just a few bucks and is recyclable, for a department with a budget well in the millions. That was as silly as it was insulting.

My current mystery State University of Murder focuses on a charming but dictatorial chairman of an English Department, Napoléon Padovani, who manages to alienate almost all his colleagues in an oppression blitzkrieg. He's a composite of department chairs I've heard about from across the country.

One chair had a bizarre approach to resolving a conflict between two professors: he suggested that the two of them get drunk together at the annual Christmas party and all their problems would be resolved—they would be friends forever! That's on the ludicrous side, to be charitable.

Another held academic cage matches. Adjuncts competing for the possible tenure-track positions that might, just might be opening up each year had to present their work-in-progress every week (!) and put it in the best possible light and hope they might win the prize. The pressure was intense, the competition ugly and brutal. There's a department chair I heard of who revealed personal psychological information about a professor during a department meeting while supposedly "worrying" about her mental state, totally violating that professor's privacy.

There's another who knew a faculty member was going to complain about his disregard for university regulations and not only tried to stop her from a formal complaint at a university committee, but sat behind her at the meeting along with one of his henchmen and muttered derisively when she read her statement.

A religious studies chairman I know of argued with a rabbi teaching in his department as an adjunct that Judaism was absolutely not a culture but could only be spoken about and taught as a religion. Their disagreement was a major reason the rabbi wasn't rehired.

When my office mate at Michigan State University reported that a graduate student in the department who was a former boyfriend had burst into her apartment, knocking the door off her hinges, and roughed up her current boyfriend and threatened her, the chair did absolutely nothing.

And reports from a department I know of are that the current atmosphere is "Stalinist." While there's significant disapproval of actions the chair is taking to limit academic freedom and free speech, those faculty members who disagree are afraid to speak up for fear of harassment and punishment. And the faculty listserv is now off limits to discussion of anything remotely "controversial."

My Nick Hoffman series is satirical, taking real situations and people, extrapolating from them, making them more ridiculous, more threatening--but the emotional core is ultimately true. And the emotional toll this kind of rampant and widespread abuse of various kinds can take is also true.

There's no evidence that George Bernard Shaw actually said “If you want to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh," but whoever is the source, that quote has guided me through my series and will continue to do so.

Lev Raphael is the author of 26 books in genres from memoir to mystery, most recently State University of Murder. He teaches à la carte writing workshops at