by Kathleen Costa
Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win either an ebook or print copy of one of the 3 books by Anna Celeste Burke reviewed in this post, and links to purchase them from Amazon.
“Life’s an extravaganza! You can never tell what’s coming next. Figuring out how to hang tough and make the most of the wild ride is our greatest challenge and always an adventure.”
—Quote from Anna Celeste Burke’s website Desert Cities Mysteries
Connecting with authors beyond reading and reviewing their books is the best part of my own adventure. I learn about who they are, where they came from, connections to their writing, and even some personal similarities. It was a delight to e-meet Anna Celeste Burke, USA Today’s Best Selling Author and the creativity behind a trifecta of popular and entertaining cozy series: Jessica Huntington Mystery, Corsario Cove Cozy Mystery, and Georgia Shaw Mystery. All three series offer different aged characters and different settings, but include the same well-written adventure, humor, and realism. You’ll be hooked, too.
Anna Celeste Burke‘s adventure started out far from the world of mystery, but her experiences have inspired clever stories and realistic characters. Her first big adventure was running off to Tijuana to marry her rock ‘n roll ‘soulmate’ which led to a run in with law enforcement. But this didn’t slow either of them down as they entered their next adventure at Walt Disney World University Chef Training. Anna commented about the wonderful training she received by terrific chefs, including “a former chef who worked at the White House during Lyndon Johnson’s time in office.” After graduating, she used her skills as a Prep Chef in the main kitchen at the Polynesian Hotel.
The world of academia called, and the next adventure earned her a PhD in Social Work & Sociology from the University of Michigan. With an “allegiance” dilemma, she eventually became the Associate Dean for Research in the College of Social Work at The Ohio State University with her research interests in the areas of Mental Health & Drug Policy and Treatment. From there and beyond she imparted her expertise through lectures on “nerdy topics” like social work and behavioral science. She loved “working with social workers and mental health professionals on the front lines.”
You might ask, she quips, “What on earth does a research scientist have in common with a mystery writer?” It seems much more than one would think. Exploring below the surface, fans would agree that one theme is common in all mysteries—the search for the truth. By piecing together facts or data, tiny fragments or clues, often seemingly unrelated, the scientist and the sleuth manage to solve even the most complex puzzles. Anna concludes, “Scientist and sleuth are cut from the same cloth.”
Join in on Anna’s Literary Adventure!
“Snooping into life’s mysteries with fun, fiction, & food—California style!”
After retiring, the passion for writing led Anna to pen three delightfully fun series. Set in California, an environment she knows well, her writing is very entertaining with mysteries that excite and sometimes challenge one’s inner detective. However, it really is the character-driven stories that keep me turning the page. Each series has a well-developed central characters that Anna thinks “reflect elements of my own past.”
“Aren’t we all intertwined with our characters and our stories?” she continues. “Not in a conscious and deliberate way since I didn’t know I was doing many of things I’m telling you now. It doesn’t mean that my characters don’t constantly surprise me either.”
When asked whether real people influenced her book characters, “Some of the more outrageous characters in my books bear a resemblance to real people, but I don’t think I should say enough to risk revealing their identities. LOL! I confess to a few bits of dialogue stolen from them!”
“One thing all the series have in common,” Anna explained, “is a lot of humor about the preposterous situations we get into – some of the humor is slapstick, some tongue in cheek, plays on words, and a general appreciation for the absurd elements of even the best-planned life.”
Heinous Habits: Corsario Cove Cozy Mystery earns 5/5 Mad Monk Mania!
Set on the California Coast, I was excited to be able to join all these fun characters as Brother Thaddeus sends the young sleuthing duo on a second honeymoon. Not the kind of honeymoon part two that I experienced: an ominous message from a hooded figure, arson, kidnapping, and murder. However, this series with its youthful exuberance and page-turning excitement has become a new favorite for 2018. Fans are thrilled, and newbies, like me, will never feel like something is left out. I highly recommend this book and series for its cleverness, quirky characters (new Bede Greco is fun!), and humor. Don’t forget to read the Author’s Notes…fascinating insights into Fact or Fiction.
Anna reflects, “Kim and Brien, 20-somethings raised on California culture really scare me at times. Twitchin’ Mitchum calls them knuckleheads, and I must admit that their youthful enthusiasm makes them rush ahead without always doing much thinking. Madly in love, sure that the future holds plenty of “most excellent adventures,” I think in spirit they’re similar to Vic and me when we took off into the unknown without much regard for a “safety net.” It was “Wendy & Peter Pan” all the way. Maybe not a coincidence we ended up at Disney!”
A Dead Mother: Jessica Huntington Mysteries earns 5/5 Desert Dilemmas!
Set in the California desert cities near Palm Springs, I was once again thrilled with this entertaining, sometimes roller coaster, ride. Jessica is dealing with dysfunction in her life whether with family or her career. Her mother, her ex, and clients turned friends converge to make this a very intense story. But Anna adds a bit of humor in the face of disaster…and murder! I enjoyed book one, “A Dead Husband,” so I was able to jump right in reading book four like many fans, but newbies, you, too, can enjoy the story without any problems.
Anna provides a unique insight. “Jessica Huntington, in her mid-thirties, is doing the kind of soul-searching I did a little later in life. She’s kind of a symbol for me of the wake up the Great Recession sent out to us. I’m no member of the 1% like Jessica, and I’ve worked hard since I was a kid to make a living–lots of 70+ hour work weeks. I think she’s a good reminder that money can’t buy happiness, and we all need to look deeper to figure out what matters in life. I didn’t suffer betrayal at the hands of an unfaithful husband, but I have had to come to grips with serious family traumas–some old and some more recent. That whole series is inspired by the complexities of relationships–intimate romantic ones, family relationships, and friendships.”
Murder at Sea of Passenger X: Georgia Shaw earns 5/5 Cruising Complications!
“Man overboard!” rings through the corridors putting a temporary change in direction for Georgia and Jack’s honeymoon cruise to the South Pacific. They are roped in to facilitate a lockdown of the crime scene (Why not? Jack’s a detective!), and of course, an investigation ensues. Absolute fun! Along with a questionable overboard victim, a dead body, nosy crew, rumors of a theft ring on board, and ship of 1000 suspects, this delightful duo is challenged to uncover the truth. I really like Georgia’s character, but it’s the humor, Georgia’s and Jack’s relationship, and descriptions bringing everything to life that makes this quickly becoming a favorite series!
Anna explains, “Georgie is not only the oldest but the most level-headed of my leading ladies. I hope I’ve developed some of her self-reliance without being as closed off as she is when love walks in, unannounced, at a crime scene. I also hope I can be as open to change as she is, and to the new adventures that Jack Wheeler brings with him into their marriage. She shares my love of Siamese cats, jazz, film noir [like Jessica, too, btw], and chocolate!”
Chef Anna’s Mini Cookbooks
Many cozy authors provide recipes, but we are treated to some marvelous recipes from a trained chef. In Heinous Habits, there are seven unique cookie recipes. I am eager to try the Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Snickerdoodles! In A Dead Mother, the seven recipes seem exotic like Honey-Pistachio Spiced Roasted Pears. In Murder at Sea of Passenger X, we have eleven recipes with an Island flair (well, she did work at the Polynesian Hotel) from pupus to desserts. Each recipe includes Georgia’s Tips. Oh, yes! Pork and Mango Toast, Kailua Pork, and Páte Brisée…
We are entering a new year, making resolutions and plans to ensure our success. Anna Celeste Burke has her perspective on New Year’s resolutions.
Got Your McGuffin?
When you read my books, you can’t miss how much I believe in second chances. At 17, I dropped out of college and took off with a rock and roll guitar player. Stopping long enough in Tijuana to marry him, I was headed for Hawaii when the police nabbed me as a runaway. I got a second chance to be with the man of my dreams who wasn’t much more than a boy at the time. Fortunately, he turned out to be a decent guy—even though he hadn’t finished high school and didn’t have “a real job.” Our life together might have been very different if it hadn’t been for more second chances. A GED for my husband and our belated enrollment in college opened lots of doors we’d slammed shut while convinced “all you need is love.”
We never stop needing second chances. Each new year offers us a fresh start! Like a blank notebook on the first day of school, the wide-open calendar gives us another 365 days to get “it” right, or at least make “it” a little better. Another thing I’ve learned after years and years of fresh starts, is that “it” matters less than the effort to live an examined life, always on the look-out for ways to improve. Dwight Eisenhower made a good point when he claimed that “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
As a mystery writer, I’ve come to view my new year’s resolutions as “McGuffins.” According to the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, a McGuffin is a device used to move a plot forward. A classic example is the supposedly priceless statue of a bird that sets into motion all the action in the noir film, The Maltese Falcon. Dashiell Hammett could have titled his book The Maltese Diamond and set his characters on the hunt for a big diamond like the one in The Jewel of the Nile or The Pink Panther.
The point is, we all need something to chase each year that will move the plot line of our life’s story forward. What we resolve seems to matter less than that we pause, reflect, make resolutions, and then move! It’s a New Year! A Fresh Start! What’s your McGuffin?
Like, Visit, and Follow, Oh, my!
Facebook – Anna Celeste Burke
Website – Desert Cities Mystery/Anna Celeste Burke
Twitter – aburke59
New Murder of the Maestro, book six in the Jessica Huntington Mystery available for pre-order in preparation for release on March 2, 2018.
To enter to win either an ebook or print copy of any one of these books (Heinous Habits, A Dead Mother, or Murder at Sea of Passenger X), simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “anna,” or comment on this article, and please state whether you want print or ebook and which book you want. A winner will be chosen January 20, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases using those links. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.