Series: Tourist Trap Mysteries #4
Published by Kensington on June 23rd 2015
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Source: the publisher through NetGalley
Also in this series: Mission to Murder, If the Shoe Kills, Killer Run, Murder on Wheels, Tea Cups and Carnage, Hospitality and Homicide
Also by this author: Mission to Murder, If the Shoe Kills, Killer Run, Murder on Wheels, Tea Cups and Carnage, A Story to Kill, Hospitality and Homicide
Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books, and More in the tucked-away town of South Cove, California—is not particularly thrilled to be portraying a twenties flapper for the dinner theater murder mystery. Though it is for charity…
Of course everyone is expecting a “dead” body at the dress rehearsal…but this one isn’t acting! It turns out the main suspect is the late actor’s conniving girlfriend Sherry…who also happens to be the ex-wife of Jill’s main squeeze. Sherry is definitely a master manipulator…but is she a killer? Jill may discover the truth only when the curtain comes up on the final act…and by then, it may be far too late.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
Guest Post by Lynn Cahoon
A Great Place to Hide the Body…
Or what could be titled, writing from setting. People always ask, “where do you get your ideas?” For me, it’s three different ways. Characters, situations, or settings. The Tourist Trap mysteries started because of a setting. The central California coastline is lined with cute little tourist towns, just off the highway, and like the Venus Flytrap, just waiting for a car to turn onto their Main Street and fall in love with the quaintness.
I fell in love with the area, one spring break when I visited my sister. I spent the week, driving up and down the coast, stopping for fudge, sodas, and beanie babies when I felt the draw of the shops. When I left, I had a pile of film cartridges to take to the photo mart. (Translation for the younger crowd – I had a ton of pictures to download.) It was through these pictures that a story started talking to me.
Now, six books later, I’m still building my little tourist town. This time, my publisher is taking my pictures and making covers of the different buildings and shops along South Cove’s Main Street. I’ve drawn out a colored pencil map of South Cove, mostly to keep me aware of directions I’ve already established. Like the South Cove Winery is northeast of Jill’s coffee shop. And Jill’s house is west, near the entry to the town off Highway One and close enough to the beach to be able to walk for an afternoon of sun.
All things ‘the author’ of a series needs to know to keep the story reels running in her head. But setting is also the quaint stores that seem to pop up on Main Street as the stories come to life. In Dressed to Kill, an empty storefront with a coming soon sign in If the Shoe Kills, becomes Sherry and Pat’s new-to-you designer clothing shop, Vintage Duds. Right next to the police station, and on Jill’s walk to work every day.
Mystery authors look at the world differently. A woman’s bandaged arm could have been from a fall or her abusive husband. Or better yet, a fall caused by her abusive husband. A writer will fill a void with our own ideas. So if you don’t want us explaining away your bumps and bruises, you need to tell us the real story. Which will probably not be nearly as colorful or fun as the one we made up for you.
The green woods behind a roadside rest stop? The best place to hide a body, ever. All green and dark and with quick in and out car access. No need for murderers to even get their shoes dirty.
See, there I go again.
So what have you seen that lead you to make up a story plot? Was it setting or characters?
Four books in, and I’m still having fun reading this series! Part of that is that I really like Jill, the heroine, and the way she keeps evolving and growing as a character. At this point in the series, Jill is trying to come to terms with her curiosity and her tendency to investigate, which has landed her in some dicey situations in the past. Maybe it’s time to swear off investigating?
Her boyfriend Greg – the head of South Cove’s small police force – would be happier if she did. He’s still attempting to keep Jill out of his investigations, but at the same time, he clearly respects her abilities and instincts and makes use of any information she gathers.
Having Greg’s ex-wife in town and running a business a few doors down from her own isn’t easy for Jill, especially since Sherry seems hell-bent on getting Greg back. Jill has to decide how much to trust in Greg and in the relationship they’ve built between them. Their relationship is one of the things I like best about the series – they’re both handling it like adults, letting things develop at a reasonable (or even slow) pace, and they’re cute together even when they occasionally disagree or clash over something.
Aunt Jackie is another character I take delight in: decisive, opinionated, with a softer, more vulnerable side she tries to hide. This time, she gets into serious hot water trying to help a friend, which only adds to Jill’s troubles.
This time around, I didn’t fix upon the murderer until shortly before the climax, though the culprit was certainly among my suspects. As usual, Cahoon plays fair, giving all the clues as Jill comes across them – whether or not Jill recognizes them as such. At the same time, Cahoon doesn’t usually beat you over the head with them, and there’s a nice cluster of possible suspects with a variety of motives, as well as several crimes which may or may not be related, so there’s plenty to keep you puzzling. It was certainly enough to keep me reading, even with the distractions of family vacation time to pull me away from my book!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Cruisin' Thru the Cozies 2015