Allison Montclair: The Right Sort of Man Sunday, Jun 16 2019 

Allison Montclair’s new series starts off with a delightful bang with the charming The Right Sort of Man.

The second World War has just ended in 1946 London, and two young women who couldn’t be more opposite are thrown together. Iris Sparks is the unmarried, savvy woman with an Oxford education and a shady past; Gwen Bainbridge is the war widow with a young son, still grieving the loss of her handsome husband, and subjected to living with her staid in-laws.

The two meet at a wedding and agree to start a new business to cement their independence, and do it in one of the Mayfair buildings that escaped bombing with The Right Sort Marriage Bureau. They approach it in an organized manner, trying to match suitables, and even have had a few marriages from their pairings.

New client Tillie La Salle sets off Iris’ warning bells as someone who might have her own checkered past, but the women set her up with her first date. Then Tillie is found murdered, and the man arrested for the crime is Dickie Trower, the man they matched to Tillie, who claims he never met with her at all.

Now the duo have a two-fold problem: try to rescue Dickie from the hangman’s noose, and try to reclaim the reputation of their new business. The two will ennlist their friend, Sally, a budding playwright who reminded Auntie M of Stephen Fry, to cover the office as they take turns sleuthing Tillie’s life.

The thing that struck Auntie M about these two well-developed characters (make it three if you include Sally) was their snappy dialogue, which hums and zings off the page. The period details are spot on, and the the light-hearted feel is contrasted with moments of the realities of a post-war nation.

An assured start to what promises to be a wonderful and interesting series for fans of historicals, this one will be snapped up and not put down until it’s done.

Mandy Morton: Beyond the Gravy Thursday, May 16 2019 

You don’t have to be a cat person to take great delight in the world of cats created in Beyond the Gravy, Mandy Morton’s newest entry in the No. 2 Feline Detective series.

Hettie Bagshot and her partner Tilly have endured a long winter and are looking for a nice change in the weather and a new case to fill their coffers, when Tilly wins a contest that involves a cash prize and the promise of the duo traveling to Agatha Cripsy’s Devon home for tea.

But before that can happen, they are approached by psychic Irene Peggledrip, who has been having visits from a group of murdering spirits, intent on bringing chaos to her home. Hettie and Tilly are present for a round of, among other things, indoor snowstorms and a lovely Victoria sponge thrown against the bookshelves, to Tilly’s dismay, only a part of the hijinks these restless spirits produce.

Meanwhile, Molly Bloom’s new cafe’ becomes the town’s new gathering spot, with great food at hand, always a treat for hungry felines. But what message does congealed gravy hold for Irene’s complicated future? And will that Devon trip materialize? A seance held at the cafe only complicates things but makes one thing clear: Hettie and Tilly must find the culprit still roaming so that these spirits can rest.

With the return of familiar characters such as Poppa and Buster, this world of cats offers a respite from the ills of todays world, wrapped up in a darn good mystery as the duo’s investigation advances, while it seems at time that the mystifying puzzle won’t be solved, even if Tilly is wearing her best cardigan.

Morton treats her mystery seriously in a parellel universe filled with only felines who have the same worries, problems and issues as humans. Her research and history will surprise readers new to the series, so if this is your first experience, go back to the beginning and read the entire series.

Packed with charm, and with Morton’s trademark wit, these are characters who will warm your heart while the mystery is being solved——just what the world needs now. Highly recommended.

Katherine Hall Page: The Body in the Wake Wednesday, May 8 2019 

Katherine Hall Page is having a silver anniversary! The publication of her 25th Faith Fairchild mystery this week brings a new release to the well-loved series with The Body in the Wake. Don’t miss this addition, set in Maine, where the catering sleuth is supposed to be on vacation and helping to plan the wedding of her friend’s daughter.

Relaxing goes out the window when Faith finds a body while swimming. Caught in the reeds in the Lily Pond, the strange tattoo on the victim her first clue that something shocking has invaded her little corner of the world at Sanpere Island.

Addressing a real issue in our country on a smaller level brings home the drama and distress of the nationwide opiod crisis, while Faith ends up digging into what’s behind it all. There will be time for cooking and recipes, too, in another delightful installment from the double Agatha Award winner and recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Malice Domestic.

Auntie M recently had a chance to ask Page about her books and the long-running series:

Auntie M: Congratulations on THE BODY IN THE WAKE, number 25 in this popular series. How do you keep Faith Fairchild as a series character fresh?

Katherine Hall Page: One of the joys of writing this long ongoing series—something that continues to amaze me—is the opportunity to follow Faith and family across many years, a lifetime in effect. As in our own lives, what happens, both good and bad, creates a fresh dynamic in each book. When it became apparent that this was going to be a series, I alternated the locales every other book as a way to keep the series fresh as well. There are the Aleford books, as is the first, The Body in the Belfry, set in Faith’s hometown west of Boston and then the “Someplace Else” books, set in Maine, Vermont, Savannah, New York City, Norway, and France.

AM: You chose your Maine setting for this one, Sanpere Island where the Fairchild’s have their summer home. It’s obvious that you have a deep affection for the area. Can you explain to readers why this setting has such significance for you?

KHP: I grew up in northern New Jersey, but starting in 1958 my parents decided that it made sense to drive north for twelve + hours with three kids for Dad’s precious vacation to Deer Isle, Maine despite living a short drive from the very beautiful Jersey shore! Before the war they had been camp counselors near Camden, Maine and fell in love with Penobscot Bay. They bought a small piece of land on a cove in the early 1960s and built a cottage. I’ve been on the island for part of every summer, and since my parents are buried there in a lovely cemetery with room for the rest of us, plan to be there a long time. As native Mainers say, “Just because a cat has kittens in the oven, doesn’t make them biscuits”, I will never be a “native”, but it’s where my heart is and I’m now living in our cottage for 4 months of the year. As a setting, the island is not only stunning, but abounds with tales!

AM: You’re not afraid to tackle the deepening drug crisis in this book. What made you decide to have that theme when there’s also the anticipation of a summer wedding in the action?

KHP: First of all, I have a deep seated dislike for what I call “Soapbox Mysteries” in which the author has a point of view, social, political or otherwise, that gets rammed down the reader’s throat to the detriment of all else such as plot, setting characters etc. I wanted to write about the drug crisis on the island and by extension everywhere else, but did not want to preach or have it get in the way of the story.

But it is the story today and a grim one growing worse. We all have friends and family who have fallen victim to various addictions. By telling just one I wanted to put a face on the problem. In this book, a young woman, Arlene, becomes dependent as a result of prescription medicine she was legally given for pain after a car accident. I also did want to slip in information about medically assisted treatment and also the fact that there are no simple turnarounds. Addicts relapse. This doesn’t make them bad people or criminals. It makes them human and we need to cherish them. And weddings are times of great emotion, plus so much fun to write about!

AM: Your characters are your extended family by now, as you’ve carved lives for them and written of their growth. Do you plot this growth ahead or as you start each book? Do you have an over-arching story arc for any of them for their futures that you envision?

KHP: I think about the Fairchild family even when I am not looking at a computer screen. They have become very real to me. Now I wish I were one of those writers who say their characters take on lives of their own and write themselves, but I did not receive a draught of that potion. That said I ask myself that essential for all writers question, “What if?” and think about it in regard to this family.

What if Tom and Faith start to have problems in their marriage? What form would it take? What if son Ben is not the target of a bully, but joins the bullying group? What if daughter Amy fails to recognize the obvious signs that something more than an allergy is causing her employer’s stuffed up nose? Much of what I think about the Fairchilds never makes it into any of the books, but informs all of them. Not perfect people, thank goodness, but people I think we’d like to know. The story, the essential part of each book, grows from the characters and I have to make sure they don’t get in the way with too much detail—or not enough.

AM: Close friends are important to the Fairchilds and have become repeat characters. Yet you seamlessly weave in the ones we probably won’t see again, such as the Childs and the Cranes, with several surprises there. How much outlining do you do before plunging into the writing?

KHP: In the past I outlined extensively, but found I wasn’t using them so much as other methods. I think it’s Harlan Coben who answered one of his children with “Daddy’s working” when he was just sitting and staring out the window. Before I write a single word there’s much walking around, thinking in the shower, and especially during that time just before sleep. I know it doesn’t look like I am working, but I am.

I know where the book will take place since I alternate locales and always write a very lengthy synopsis that goes to my editor who may make a suggestion or two. Then I write the book. I use those notebooks from France with the small grids to keep my messy handwriting legible and start with a list of characters. I think of them as a kind of ensemble troupe with the leads, the Fairchilds, permanently cast and then others come and go. Some never cross the stage again, but the Millers, Ursula Rowe and Millicent Revere McKinley almost always make an appearance. That’s why the wedding was such a joy to include. Everyone was invited.

Last word: the villains in the story, the alive ones, never return for an encore!

AM: What forms the germ of a plot idea for a new story?

KHP: Back to process. The synopsis forms the skeleton of the book and it may, and does, change over the course of writing it (always the hard part). I keep lists of characters with a few words describing them on that first page of the notebook, followed by pages of a timeline and list of chapters with brief descriptions about what is happening in them as I go along. The timeline helps me keep the days straight, so if a week has passed, Faith doesn’t say, “Yesterday, I….”

I also keep a list of first and last lines by chapter so each does not start with “Faith woke up.” and end with “She heard a mysterious noise…” However, that last line has to make the reader keep turning to the next chapter and stay up all night. Plot ideas come from all sorts of sources, especially eavesdropping (I have no shame and my husband is used to being shushed in restaurants if there is something juicy being said at the next table. Also women say fascinating things in restrooms to each other when they think all the stalls are empty!).

My favorite description of the writing process comes from Madeleine L’Engle: “It’s like taking dictation from one’s imagination.”

AM: The recipes included at the back are a hallmark of your stories. Do you taste test them all? (I’m trying the Blueberry Buckle soon!)

KHP: The recipes are the most difficult parts of the books to write. I start them often a book ahead, knowing where the setting will be. They must all be original—can’t just open Julia and copy—and they need to be easy—not caterer types—require no expensive or exotic ingredients, and most all off taste delicious. The recipes in the Body in the Wake are summer ones, most Down East favorites with Faith’s spin on them. Fortunately I love to cook.

AM: Can you give readers a clue as to what lies ahead for Faith and her family?

KHP: Observant readers will have noted that Faith and Tom are aging much more slowly than their children (joy of fiction-I can do this, unlike one’s own march through the years). When the first book came out, a dear friend, the late William Deeck, who knew more about the genre than anyone I’ve ever known, advised keeping the children in the wings and avoid cuteness. I’ve stuck by this, but now that they are older, they are jumping in more, as in Amy in this book. So that’s a direction. And I do love Sophie Maxwell who was introduced in The Body in the Birches and now appears in a third book.

AM: -Whose books would we find on your nightstand? Which of your colleagues books you eagerly anticipate reading?

KHP: First my colleagues. I have always been a fan of Margaret Maron’s and was devastated when she stopped the Deborah Knott series. Also Dorothy Cannell—The Thin Woman is reread often to keep me from getting too depressed by world events. I also read Peter Robinson, Charles Todd, Harlan Coben, Ian Rankin, all the Scandinavians. Very different books from the kind I write. I also go back to vintage mysteries—Christie, Sayers, Mary Stewart, Rex Stout, Patricia Moyes, people like Joan Coggin, reprinted by Rue Morgue Press and all their other titles.

I read a great deal outside the genre as well. Right now, Maeve Brennan’s The Springs of Affection Dublin Stories. I enjoy Irish fiction, old and new, plus all the titles from Persephone Books, which reprints neglected fiction and nonfiction, mostly by women starting in the mid-twentieth century

Also YA- Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczko is an amazing new discovery. Love Lois Lowry, Cynthia Voigt, Angie Thomas. And always delve into a Neil Gaiman and Gregory Maguire. There is usually a thick biography in the stack, right now The Chief by David Nasaw (William Randolph Hearst). I read cookbooks with no intent on having to make the food, but just to read them for pleasure. Also food memoirs. Oh, and I totally need frequent doses of British chicklit—Sophie Kinsella, Katie Ffjorde and on our shores, the incomparable Mary Kay Andrews (great mysteries as Kathy Trocheck too). And cannot forget my most favorite— Nancy Mitford! Phew!

AM: Thank you, Katherine, for this enlightening look into your world. Readers will certainly enjoy The Body in the Wake

Death at the Dakota: Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries 2 Wednesday, May 1 2019 

Auntie M is happy to announce that her second Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery. DEATH AT THE DAKOTA, is out and availabLe on in trade paperback and soon to be in Kindle. Coming in Audible later this summer, too, read by the wonderful Lucinda Gainey, Dakota is already garnering 5-Star reviews.

Part procedural, part cozy, Death at the Dakota is a well-crafted and highly entertaining mystery.- Bruce Robert Coffin, #1 bestselling author of the Detective Byron mysteries.

Nurse Trudy Genova is making plans to take her relationship to NYPD detective Ned O’Malley to the next level, when she lands a gig as medical consultant on a film shoot at the famed Dakota apartment building in Manhattan, which John Lennon once called home. Then star Monica Kiley goes missing, a cast member turns up dead, and it appears Trudy might be next. Meanwhile Ned tackles a mysterious murder case in which the victim is burned beyond recognition. When his investigations lead him back to the Dakota, Trudy finds herself wondering: how can she fall in love if she can’t even survive?

Readers of Death Unscripted, the first book in the Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery series, will find the same pleasures in this sequel: fast pacing, engaging characters, twists and turns on the way to a satisfying close. Once again M.K. Graff reveals her talents in crafting this delightful mix of amateur sleuth and police procedural.

I fell in love — not only with co-protagonists, Trudy and Ned, the richly detailed and historic setting of The Dakota, and the unique cast of characters, but with the unusual plot of Death at the Dakota. Sherry Harris, Agatha Award nominated author of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries.


Jan McCanless:The Opera House Murders Wednesday, Mar 27 2019 

Please welcome Jan McCanless, whose two series are filled with humor, to describe her newest book, The Opera House Murders:

The Opera House Murders is the 15th book by award-winning author Jan McCanless. Her Beryl’s Cove Mystery series has been hugely popular, as has her Brother Jerome books. This is the third in her Brother Jerome series, and all those endearing characters are back, along with some visitors from Beryl’s Cove, including Dawg and Elvis.

This time around Abbot Jerome, everybodys favorite misfit monk, is called to England by his feisty, favorite relative, his Aunt Jessie. She has a family secret she wants to impart to “Chip”, the Abbot, but, somehow she can’t seem to get around to it. Someone has killed the Lord of the manner, Lord Julian Spencer, and everyone is a suspect. Her Ladyship proves to be a formidable character herself.

Things that go bump in the night, and hidden rooms are in the offering, as Chip tries to remain the one ‘adult in the room.” Once back at the Monastery of the Blue Ridge, in North Carolina, things don’t improve any, as the Abbot is called to Charlotte by his Bishop, due to things being amiss in the diocese. Chip is just the one to solve the mystery, the Bishop thinks.

With hardly a moment to himself and his misfit monks, Chip’s life is complicated further by a fire that destroys the monk’s barn, and the appearance on the scene of a comely female Episcopal priest, in the mountains on retreat.

How Abbot Jerome balances all this turmoil and solves his crises of faith makes for another interesting, fun read by Author Jan McCanless.

The book is available in area gift shops ( Statesville and mid western gift shops expecially), the public library,, and can be purchased at Jans website :


Mary Daheim: A Case of Bier Sunday, Feb 24 2019 

Mary Daheim’s Bed-and-Breakfast Mysterys now number an astounding thirty-one with the publication of A Case of Bier!

The bed-and-breakfast Judith McMonigle Flynn runs with her husband, Joe has been turned over for the week to her neighbor so she and Joe can travel with her cousin Renie to the Canadian Rockies. Renie’s Bill and Joe have booked a nice fly-fishing jaunt their first weekend. It’s a trip they are all looking forward to, if they can get Renie awake and in the car.

Off they go, only to find their expected lovely stay has been booked in not quite the place they imagined. No matter. While the men rest, the ladies take a walk along the river.

They find members of the Stokes family camping out, waiting for the patriarch’s demise so he can have the sendoff he’d requested, at just this spot on the Bow River on a bier, borrowed from a local funeral home.

At their motel, the gals meet the Odells, other members of the Stokes family. It’s a weird gathering when on their walk the next morning, the campsite is filled with crying family members. Codger has died, it would seem.

But wait! He’s actually been murdered! Stabbed twice in the back while he slept. Who would have bothered to kill an old man waiting to die?

It’s too much for Judith to leave alone. And then it appears the dead man might not be Codger at all.

Another fun entry in this long-running cozy series, the quirky case is filled with wry humor and wit.

Michael Robertson: A Baker Street Wedding Wednesday, Dec 19 2018 

    One of Auntie M’s favorite series for your holiday consideration:

    Michael Robertson’s fifth Baker Street Mystery, A Baker Street Wedding, features modern solicitor Reggie Heath, whose offices with his brother, Nigel, at the infamous 221B Baker Street London address bring them letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes.

    This latest installment revovles around Reggie’s wedding to actress Laura Rankin, and as the book opens, the disasterous day has taken off literally. There is the leak to paparazzi of the Cornwall location, which makes the reception as short-lived as the wedding cake. With the newleyweds desperate for peace and quiet, they escape to a remote village where Laura once attended school.

    The design for this comes early in the story, but Laura doesn’t mention that she has this destination in mind when she pulls Reggie into a plane he didn’t know she could pilot and flies them away from the hounding photographers.

    The small village where they arrive, in a valley between the cliffs and the moors, is one long block long. The school Laura attended has been closed, and the local theatregroup are doing a fundraiser of the Scottish play in hopes of reopening it.

    Small wonder, then, that Laura ends up here, and when the local gal playing Lady M dies tragically, Laura is seconded to not only save the show, but figure out if the young woman’s accident might be murder.

    With Reggie in the dark at first, groping blindly as secrets from Laura’s past come to the forefront, he will scramble to save her and himself. And when his best efforts fail, it will be up to an unlikely source to pitch in.

    The wry tone of the book will delight readers as much as the clever plot. Perhaps Auntie M’s favorite of the series so far.

Shawn Reilly Simmons: Murder with all the Trimmings Tuesday, Dec 18 2018 

Please welcome Shawn Reilly Simmons, with her new release Murder With All the Trimmings, a grand gift for the holidays, who will graciously share her writing methods.

Thanks for having me on the blog, Auntie M!

Whenever I’m speaking at an author event at a bookstore or library and the audience is prompted to ask questions, I generally get at least one about my writing process. The questions typically revolve around how I got started writing or how I’ve managed to write so many books so quickly (six in about seven years, and close to a dozen published short stories).

Every writer has their own routine and method of getting their work done, and my way may not work for everyone. But in the event it might be helpful to some, here is how I approach my writing.

I wrote my first book early in the mornings from five to around seven or eight, or whenever my infant son woke up for the day. When he was born, I left my day job to stay home with him, and that’s also when I got serious about my writing.

I’d always wanted to write for a living, but as it often does, life (and luxuries like paying rent and buying groceries) got in the way, and I ended up pursuing a marketing career in New York City after graduating college.

Those early days as a new parent are exhausting, and your time really isn’t your own until they’re through those first crucial years. And forget about sleep, at least in my situation. Those early morning hours, however, are unique in their serenity, and they were always when I could get the most work done. The habit has stuck and to this day I still get 90% of my writing done at that time of the day.
I prefer to write while it’s quiet, no music or TV background noise, with just a laptop and a cup of coffee on my desk. Besides the early mornings being quiet in my house, they’re also quiet out in the rest of the world, generally speaking. At that time of the day, I typically haven’t gotten any emails or texts or Facebook messages that have to be dealt with right away, or that provide a distraction from the task at hand.

Another skill that I cultivated in those early years of motherhood was contemplating the next morning’s work during those quiet moments at the end of the day. While listening to my infant son fall asleep, I’d think about the next scene in the book I’d write. I’d work out how the plot would progress, and what my characters would be up to. It worked so well, that I still practice this quiet meditation seven years later. My last thought as I’m falling asleep is my work in progress and the next scenes to be written.

I think because of this habit, I’ve never experienced writers’ block. I’m ready to go every morning, having worked out the way ahead in the plot before I’ve sat down.

The last tip I’d suggest to writers who are working on being more productive is to find that magic hour or hours that works for them, and write every day during that time. Magic time is when you feel the most creative and relaxed, and when you can tune out the world for a while, and focus on your story. This timeframe will be different for everyone. I have author friends who are early risers like me, and others that swear those late hours after everyone else has fallen asleep are their most creative. Once you find the time of day that works best for you, commit to writing during that time, be consistent, and really write (no Facebook or research!) You can research outside your magic time.

Before you know it, you’ll have a finished story or book. And the added benefit of holding yourself to a routine is that self-discipline brings confidence with it, and as writers we’re always grateful for more of that!

Hopefully one or more of these pointers can help a writer or two out there. Keep writing, everyone, and Happy Holidays!
Murder With All the Trimmings, the sixth book in The Red Carpet Catering Mysteries, was released on November 13, 2018. Shawn’s books are available online and in book stores and libraries everywhere. For a listing of events, to join Shawn’s monthly email newsletter (recipes included!), and for a complete list of published books and stories, please visit
Shawn Reilly Simmons

Shawn Reilly Simmons is the author of The Red Carpet Catering Mysteries featuring Penelope Sutherland, an on-set movie caterer, and of several short stories appearing in various anthologies including “Burnt Orange” in Passport to Murder: the 2017 Bouchercon Anthology (Down & Out Books), and “The Prodigy” in Mystery Tour, the Crime Writers’ Association Anthology (Orenda Books).

Shawn was born in Indiana, grew up in Florida, and began her professional career in New York City as a sales executive after graduating from the University of Maryland with a BA in English. Since then Shawn has worked as a book store manager, fiction editor, convention organizer, wine rep, and movie set caterer. She serves on the Board of Malice Domestic, and is an editor at Level Best Books.

Shawn is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and the Crime Writers’ Association in the U.K.

Cooking behind the scenes on movie sets perfectly combined two of her great loves, movies and food, and provides the inspiration for The Red Carpet Catering series, published by Henery Press.

Cozy Christmas: Cozies for Holiday gift-giving Wednesday, Dec 12 2018 

Around the holidays, Auntie M likes to give her readers choices for great gift books for those on their list. No matter what holiday you celebrate, a new book holds the promise of a story yet to be told. Today we’re talking cozies:

MB Shaw’s new series debuts with Murder at the Mill
, where artist Iris Grey, coping with a disintergrating marriage, rents a house to give herself mental breathing space. Enjoying the nature-filled area and sketching soon give way to a commission to paint the portrait of her cottage’s owner, celebrated crime writer Dominic Wetherby. Iris meets the extended family and more at the Christmas Eve party the Wetherby’s hold.

Becoming entangled with the entire Wetherby family, the idyllis Hampshire village soon turns nightmarish after the youngest son finds a body in the water on Christmas Day. Was this an accident or a murder? Attracted to the family attorney, Iris finds herself sleuthing when she becomes frustrated with the local police, just as she soon feels herself being stalked.

A terrific puzzle and an engaging start to a new series.

Ellen Crosby’s newest in her Wine Country series, Harvest of Secrets, takes readers to Virginia and the Montgomery Estate Vineyards during their busy season. Mixing an unearthed skull on Lucie Montgomery’s family property with a modern mystery, Lucie also has a new murder to contend with when shortly after arriving in the area at a neighboring vineyard, head winemaker Jean-Claude de Marignac is found dead.

The prime suspect is an immigrant worker, Miguel Otero, who had quarreled with the new winemaker. But with Lucie’s own immigrant helped ready to revolt during the harvest, she plunges into figuring out the real culprit. It doesn’t help that the dead man was one of Lucie’s first crushes decades ago.

A nice mix of old and new mysteries, with Lucie facing buried secrets.

The 27th Agatha Raisin mystery, Dead Ringer
, features all of MC Beaton’s usual wit and eccentric characters. The Bishop’s visit means the bellringers are practicing up a storm when Agatha manages to convince the lawyer Julian Brody of their team to hire her to investigate the Bishop’s missing fiancee`. Local heiress Jennifer Toynby disappearance years ago, with no body found, remains unsolved.

But that’s not the only thing occupying Agatha. There’s the body of the local policeman discovered in the crypt; one of the bellringers twins is murdered near the church; and a journalist who was once briefly Agatha’s lover is found dead in her very own sitting room. Just how is the Bishop connected to these deaths?

Now a British TV show, the Agatha Raisin series remains a favorite and a classic cozy series.

From its charming cover to the the cast of cats in the characters, Melissa Daley’s Christmas at the Cat Cafe` glows with all that is merry and bright. Set in the town of Stourton-on-the-Hill, owner Debbie allows her sister to move in after a heartbreak. But that doesn’t sit well with the cat side of the home, Molly and her three kittens, who are soon at the mercy of Linda’s dog, Beau. Things go from bad to worse when another cat threatens Molly’s home ground.

With Molly’s point of view at the forefront, this tale is a holiday delight for cat and animal lovers.

Olga Wojtas: Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar/The Bunburry Mysteries Wednesday, Dec 5 2018 

Please welcome Olga Wojtas, author of the new Bunburry series, which has been described as a mix between Miss Marple and Midsomer Murders. She’s here to talk about Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar, a time-travel mystery with an inept sleuth, written as an homage to writer Muriel Spark.

Greetings from Edinburgh, Scotland, where I went to high school, and where I still live and work. The writer Muriel Spark was a fellow alumna of James Gillespie’s High School, which she immortalised as Marcia Blaine School for Girls in her iconic novel, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”

That’s what inspired my novel, Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar. It’s a wacky romp featuring 50-something librarian Shona McMonagle, a former pupil sent on a time-travelling mission to 19th century Russia by Miss Blaine herself.

Shona has a generally sunny disposition, apart from her deep loathing of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name. Impeccably educated, and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, she is thrilled to be chosen for the one- week mission, which she deduces is to pair up the beautiful, shy, orphaned heiress Lidia Ivanovna with Sasha, a gorgeous young man of unexplained origins.

But despite having had the finest education in the world, Shona might well have got the wrong end of the stick about her mission. In fact, she arguably qualifies for the grand Scottish word “numpty” (according to The Urban Dictionary, “A person who is incapable of performing the simplest of tasks correctly”). As the body count rises, will she discover in time who the villain is?

It’s unusual to have a crime novel in which the protagonist is completely inept. But my aim is to have that as part of the comedy. Astute readers like yourself will pick up on the clues long before Shona does, and I hope you’ll have fun watching her get into deeper and deeper water (literally, at one point, when she’s the victim of an attempted drowning). If you’re a fan of Jeeves and Wooster, one of the loveliest reviews I’ve had described my book as “Anna Karenina written by P G Wodehouse”. Shona is something of a female Bertie Wooster, touchingly unaware of her own limitations and, I hope, endearing with it.

She’s surrounded by a host of extraordinary Russian characters, from the serf Old Vatrushkin (a young man who’s terrified of being emancipated) and an elderly nanny who knits (though never produces anything recognisable) to a snobbish countess with a dangerous cleavage, and her ill-trained lapdog which Shona describes as an animated floormop. Will it all work out in the end?

I hope it’s not a spoiler to tell you that it does – but whether Miss Blaine thinks Shona deserves to be sent on another mission is another matter. I’m thrilled that the novel is one of the Christian Science Monitor’s top ten books for November 2018, and one of the Kirkus best books of 2018.

I also write the Bunburry e-book series of novellas under the name Helena Marchmont. These are short cosy crime mysteries which can be read in a couple of hours, set in the rolling hills of the English Cotswolds. I’m half-Scottish and half-Polish, and figured that my real name didn’t fit very well with the quintessential Englishness of the subject matter. So I took my middle name, Helena, and the street I grew up on, Marchmont Road, to create a new persona who I think sounds suitably Anglicised.

The main character is Alfie McAlister, a self-made millionaire who has relocated from London to the idyllic village of Bunburry following a personal tragedy, but finds himself playing amateur detective alongside his late aunt’s best friends, Liz and Marge.

He’s touchingly unaware of how attractive he is (less to do with his money than his good looks), and it never crosses his mind that local policewoman Emma and American environmental activist Betty might be interested in him. Each novella contains an individual mystery. But there’s also a mystery in his family background which gradually unfolds as the series continues: the first e-book came out in September 2018, and the others are being published at two-monthly intervals.

Alfie doesn’t remember his Aunt Augusta who left him a cottage in the village, although he has fond memories of his grandparents who were killed in a car crash when he was twelve. Through Liz and Marge, he begins to discover more about the crash and about his family.

These are more mainstream stories than the quirkiness of Shona, but I’ve still introduced some humour. Alfie’s best friend is the aristocratic Oscar de Linnet, who refuses to leave Bunburry to visit the country, which he dismisses as “pub grub, mud and cows”. He sees himself as a reincarnation of Oscar Wilde, and is always prepared with a Wildean quip.

News Flash: The Bunburry Mysteries will soon be available in Audio in GERMANY, performed by none other than Nathaniel Parker of Inspector Lynley fame.

If you read either Shona or Bunburry (or even both), I do hope you enjoy them! And thank you, Marni, for this opportunity to introduce myself! selections golden-samovar/

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