Reading with a Cup of Iced Tea
At least here in the Midwest, it looks like winter is still far in the future. Seventy degrees in November as I write this so I may be stocking up on iced tea for the holidays instead of hot cocoa. But there are still some great new books to keep you happy through the holidays. Happy Reading!
This issue, meet multi-published and USA Today best-selling author Jean Rabe. Her latest, recently released book, The Dead of Winter, was not only a hot new release on Amazon, but despite Rabe’s multiple science fiction and fantasy books, it’s also her first mystery. (Print, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited, www.jeanrabe.com)
About The Dead of Winter:
Fifty-eight minutes into her first day on the job, 23-year-old Sheriff Piper Blackwell is faced with a grisly murder—the victim artfully posed amid decorations on his lawn. Drawing on former military training, Piper must prove herself worthy of the sheriff’s badge, and that won’t be easy. Chief Deputy Oren Rosenberg, Piper’s opponent in the recent election, doesn’t like her and wants her to fail. She doesn’t like him either, but she needs Oren to help catch the killer before another victim is discovered.
Facing personal and professional threats, Piper has to weather a raging storm, keep the sheriff’s department from crumbling around her, and reel in a killer during the most brutal winter sleepy Spencer County, Indiana, has experienced.
Q&A with Jean Rabe:
Tell us what inspired the book?
Without giving too much away, some friends sent me Christmas cards that kind of festered in that proverbial craw. I held onto the cards…and a plot started to simmer. I posed the first victim to look like the Christmas card he sent his friends.
Why do you like writing mystery vs. Sci Fi and Fantasy?
I’ve been reading mysteries for a lot of years. Several years ago Harlequin contracted me to write a cozy mystery under a house name. I enjoyed it more than a little bit, and figured I ought to write my own mysteries. Just took me a while to get around to it. I still love writing sf and fantasy…I just love writing, but I’d been in “the game” for quite a while, and writing mysteries let me try something new, rejuvenate myself in a sense.
To “rejuvenate,” how did you have to change your writing?
I really didn’t have to change my writing so much as I had to change the research. Real world mysteries require road maps, weather charts, knowledge of local politics. Takes a lot of background work. I’d say it takes more work to write a mystery than a fantasy—for me, at least. It’s harder. But I like that it’s harder. Gives me quite a challenge.
Why’d you pick a small town for your setting over somewhere else?
I like small towns and I live in an itty bitty town right now. They have a seriously different dynamic than a big city, a different pace, different attitudes, different lifestyles. It feels good to write about all of that, along with tossing in a murder or two to shake things up.
How would you say your real life experiences shaped this book?
When I worked as a reporter, often I’d head off into the country to cover all manner of crimes…robberies, murder, embezzlements, and the like. I got to know how small-town police and sheriff deputies work, and how they are limited because they don’t have big-city resources, though they do have access to them. I covered Western Kentucky for Scripps Howard, and that included Fort Campbell’s Screaming Eagles. So when I decided to craft my young sheriff, I decided to make her a Screaming Eagle. I called a contact at the base and he helped me build her background to make her truly plausible.
How different was writing your mystery than your other books?
It took me longer to write it because I didn’t get to make up the terrain. I used a real county, and I took a trip there to drive around the towns, chat with the locals, sit at a restaurant, listen to people talk, and stop in a few of the stores. I took lots of pictures and got a pretty good flavor. When I write big-city fiction I don’t have to do that. There are a lot of websites with pictures of life in a particular city. For my small county, I felt better going to the source. I chatted with the sheriff to learn the crime statistics. Then I made up my characters and created my villain.
Excerpt from The Dead of Winter:
Conrad Delaney’s body leaned against a life-sized stuffed Santa on the seat of a glossy black sleigh. It looked like he was going for a ride with the jolly old elf.
The centerpiece of Conrad’s front yard, the sleigh was red the last time Piper saw it. That was more than a dozen years back when her dad drove the family through the county to take in the Christmas lights. Piper had begged to stop so she could sit with Santa, but dad kept driving…on to the next display, and the next.
Large burlap sacks filled the back of the sleigh; artfully spilling from one were boxes wrapped in colorful plastic and tied with red and green bows, everything held in place with fishing line. The ribbons fluttered in the chill breeze that cut across the snowy landscape.
Piper shivered and turned her coat collar up.
For variety sometimes Conrad put big stuffed animals in the mix, and one Christmas he reported a four-foot-tall Teddy bear stolen. The sheriff’s department recovered the bear about a month later, hanging from a telephone pole out on Highway 545 near the monastery, fluffy guts spilling out. It had been a hot news item for the town of Fulda, which boasted a population of two hundred.
One hundred and ninety-nine now.
* Favorite Quote from The Dead of Winter:
“You know how it goes. Fell in with the wrong crowd in junior high…not that there was much of a crowd, the school being so small. Hell, everything here is tinier than a flea’s fart. But whatever was wrong, whatever was a bad influence…back then I managed to find it.”
Other Notable & New Releases:
* If you like your mystery and real-life crime with a touch of horror… Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter by C.A. Verstraete answers the question – What if Lizzie Borden did kill her father and stepmother—because she had no other choice?
Every family has its secrets…
One hot August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden picked up an axe and murdered her father and stepmother. Newspapers claim she did it for the oldest of reasons: family conflicts, jealousy and greed. But what if her parents were already dead? What if Lizzie slaughtered them because they’d become… zombies? (Print, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited, www.cverstraete.com)
Interesting observation is that witch mysteries seem to be a popular, and growing, sub-category. The retro photo cover caught my eye on this one.
Witch Christmas (Australian Witch Series novella) by Morgana Best is set in 1930’s Australia. (http://morganabest.blogspot.com/)
Dagma’s husband has been missing for a year, and police have just now found his body. The previous Christmas, Dagma did a spell to make her husband leave, and is worried that she’s the reason he was murdered. When Thelma attempts to reverse time, all she brews up is trouble. With rival witch, Jasmine Walters, making eyes at Wolff, can Thelma keep Jasmine at bay, solve the murder, and be home in time for Christmas dinner?
Mystery author Camille Minichino reportedly has been seen flitting around under two different guises… ( www.minichino.com/)
In her latest miniatures mystery, Matrimony in Miniature (by Margaret Grace), how can miniaturist Gerry Porter she stay away from the investigation when the crime scene is the venue for her marriage to Henry Baker? Nephew Detective Skip Gowen tries to discourage Gerry’s and granddaughter Maddie’s efforts to solve “The Case.” He couldn’t live with himself if the murderer learns of their efforts and comes after them… (Softcover).
In her second postmistress mystery, Cancelled by Murder (by Jean Flowers), foul weather is turned into foul play when the local fabric shop owner is found dead. Now Postmistress Cassie is asked to help solve the murder before another innocent victim is taken by storm.
* Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and see you next year!