by Lorie Lewis Ham &
To continue in the spirit of Halloween, this week Terell is reviewing two books by mystery author Penny Warner that tie in to the spookiness of Halloween–How To Survive A Killer Seance and How to Party With A Killer Vampire. After the reviews is a fun behind the book interview with Penny & then a chance to enter to win copies of both books!
How to Survive a Killer Séance
Review by Terell Byrd
I am in awe of party planners. Our heroine, Presley Parker, prefers the term event planner. Okay then, I am in awe of event planners. I have worked with them several times and am astounded at their ability to make everything come together and seem smooth, even with the inevitable last minute changes. In Presley’s case, the worst party foul seems to be the occasional uninvited dead body.
As the story begins, the morning has started out poorly for Presley. She arrives at her office on Treasure Island to find a condemned building sticker and padlock on her door. The bad day rapidly declines to terrible as she is wedged into a deal for planning a “séance party” at the Winchester Mystery House. Things just get worse when she arrives to find her new, much pricier office is affordable because she has been volunteered to organize a mini Golden Gate Expo as trade for rent.
The history of the Winchester Mystery House woven into the story is fascinating. Jonathan Ellington, the head of a company that wants to showcase its technology, insists Presley arrange a séance party at the famous San Jose landmark. The visiting spirit will be a product of the company’s cutting edge holographic imagery. Rather than have a human host speak about the breakthrough in 3D, Ellington has chosen to use the likeness of Sarah Winchester to sell his software. The party is in full swing and everyone enjoys the movie magic of the ‘spirit’ of Sarah talking to them individually. Up to the point that she starts telling of Ellington’s philandering and a fight ensues. Ellington and his wife disappear and the technician in charge of the equipment is found murdered. Will Presley get paid for the party? Will she survive to help prove who the murderer is? You must read the book to find out!
This is the third of the Party-Planning Mystery series and is a unique sparkling adventure. At the beginning of each chapter are marvelous (often tongue in cheek) snippets of advice about hosting your own séance party. There is also a useful appendix on some of the details of event planning.
Read the book for fun, read it to set the mood for Hallowe’en, read it to get ready for the next book: How to Party with a Killer Vampire. ‘Tis the season!
How to Party With A Killer Vampire
Review by Terell Byrd
At the beginning of How To Party With A Killer Vampire, we find Presley Parker working on a party celebrating the end of filming Revenge of the Killer Vampires. Things look promising, the film has two young and attractive actors, soon to be mega stars. The vampire theme is the hottest selling trend. Despite some reservations about the setting, the producer Lucas Cruz insisted on holding the wrap party in a real cemetery, Presley has everything in place and is looking forward to a successful event the next evening.
As the crew is wrapping up the preparations, they hear screams and see lights dancing over the top of the tombstones. These are special effects that neither Presley nor Cruz set up. A frightening hulk of a man appears and tells them there are evil omens and they must leave the cemetery. As they argue with him that they have the permits allowing them to be there, he continues to warn them of dire consequences if they don’t leave. The next morning one of the movie extras is found dead in the cemetery. Is it death from an accidental fall or murder?
The explosive atmosphere surrounding the cast and crew of the movie darkens as the sun sets. As the party lights come on we learn that leading actress, Angelica Brayden, is being stalked. Angelica also admits to a secret marriage but continuously flirts with every good-looking male in sight. At the Vampire Party a local photographer gate crashes and has an argument with Cruz. When the paparazzi is found dead at the cemetery the next morning it looks like the living dead are soon going to be the only population walking around in the tiny city of Colma.
The fourth in the Party Planning Mystery Series, this book is also fine as a stand alone. The appendix with details for having a vampire party was recently excerpted in Kings River Life in an article on planning your own vampire party written by Penny Warner herself.
Unlike most series books, the people gain an extra line or two of character in their features with each volume. I particularly like the extra dimension given here to homicide Detective Luke Melvin. I also like the portion of the story line that deals with Presley’s mother who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Penny Warner does an excellent job of portraying the joys of having an elderly mother still living accompanied by the pain of switching roles when an adult child becomes the caretaker of their parent.
I recommend the book for anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries. For those, like me, who also enjoy vampire and werewolf stories, you will have the extra fun of some inside jokes and a little gentle spoofing along with some great games and party tips.
Interview with Penny Warner about How to Party With A Killer Vampire
Lorie: What is your latest series about?
Penny: How To Party With A Killer Vampire, is set in Colma, the “City of Souls” (there are 16 cemeteries there!), and features a Vampire Party, hosted by a movie producer. Presley Parker, the event planner, finds herself buried in problems when a party crasher is found dead in the cemetery right before the party beings.
Lorie: How did you get the idea for this series?
Penny: I’ve written a number of party planning books for kids and adults, and thought a series featuring murder at parties made sense! After all, there’s a lot of drama at parties…
Lorie: How did you get the idea for How To Party With A Killer Vampire?
Penny: Vampires are so popular these days that I thought a Vampire Party would fit in nicely. I offer a complete Vampire party plan at the back of the book, too.
Lorie: What kind of research did you have to do to start this series, and then more specifically for this book?
Penny: Host a lot of parties! That’s the fun part. Visiting Colma was an interesting experience. Very peaceful place, but wouldn’t want to “live” there.
Lorie: Any fun stories to share about writing this book?
Penny: It was fun finding familiar names in the cemetery, such as Wyatt Earp. And seeing all the creative headstones was fascinating! I understand many groups host events there, such as poetry readings, picnics, etc. They want to make the cemetery “Living Friendly.”
Lorie: What’s up next for this series?
Penny: My next book, How to Dine On Killer Wine, is set in the Napa Wine Country. I enjoyed doing the research (drinking wine!) for the book. It comes out in July.
Lorie: How many books are in this series so far?
Penny: Four so far, one more coming in July.
You can check out a review of another book in this series and a more in depth interview with Penny right here at KRL.
To enter to win a copy of both of Penny’s books reviewed here, simply email KRL at email@example.com with the subject line “Party”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 5, 2011. U.S. residents only.
If you love mysteries, why not check out Left Coast Crime:
Mystery Conference in Sacramento, March 29-April 1, 2012.Registration through 12/31/2011 is only $210 (it goes up to $225 after that). Registration information can be found at the conventionwebsite, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.