by Cynthia Chow
& Kate Carlisle
This week we have a review of the latest Fixer-Upper Mystery by Kate Carlisle along with a fun guest post from Kate about writer’s retreats. Details at the end of the post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to order it from Amazon.
Absence of Mallets: A Fixer-Upper Mystery by Kate Carlisle
Review by Cynthia Chow
It’s been three months of bliss ever since Shannon Hammer and boyfriend MacKintyre Sullivan moved in together in their town of Lighthouse Cove, California. While Shannon heads her Victorian building restoration Hammer Construction, mega-bestselling author Mac recently opened a writers’ retreat taking place in his former historic lighthouse mansion. Mac and his former Navy SEAL friends have also invested in five acres of land where Hammer Construction will be building tiny homes for veterans. This latest batch of writers are causing more than the usual amount of stress for Mac and Shannon, though, seemingly disinterested in actually writing and instead more focused on their own social media. As they intrude on her worksite while recording everything on their phone, Shannon feels most protective over mosaic artist Linda Rutledge. A former veteran helping at the construction site and taking one of Shannon’s Homefront occupational program classes that teach skills to veterans, Linda is too nice to say no to the constant demands for attention by smitten writers. That means that Shannon is devastated when she comes across Linda’s body on the beach, apparently bludgeoned to death by one of Linda’s own custom mallets.
Fortunately for Shannon, her sister Chloe is in town visiting from Los Angeles where she is the star of the TV show Makeover Madness. Engaged to Police Chief Eric Jensen, Chloe now has a frequent reason to visit and conveniently help along with the investigation. Surveillance cameras and Chloe’s own footage help to provide them with clues as to who had been stalking Linda and dangerously sabotaging Shannon’s worksite. Blatant attempts to frame one of the veterans are quickly dismissed by Shannon and her equally sharp friends, but that only elevates her fears that this will only escalate the attempts to shut down the investigation and quickly close the case.
This ninth in the series finds Shannon in a very happy place in her life, so it’s infuriating that these outsiders are disrupting a project designed to help so many. Not only is she training women in the field of construction, she is helping to house veterans all dealing with their own form of PTSD. Shannon’s experience in past investigations and her ability to spot construction-related clues the police would otherwise miss make her instrumental to Eric, who has accepted and even welcomes her input. As he puts it, he just wishes that she would stop somehow always ending up facing “a crazy whacked-killer” all by herself. Her relentless mean-girl nemesis Whitney Reid Gallagher continues to annoy Shannon, as Whitney is irrationally prejudiced against the undesirable veterans and Shannon herself. Lightening up the mystery are Shannon and Mac’s mixed family of furry companions, who along with Hammer Construction’s reliable workers provide emotional and physical support. Details about mosaic artistry and building construction make this a unique and fascinating mystery, leaving readers wishing they could have their own set of pink tools as they join Shannon on her compelling adventures.
What Happens at Writers’ Retreats. . .Goes into Our Books
By Kate Carlisle
We risk sleeplessness by jumping out of bed to write down a great idea before it evaporates. We risk carpal tunnel and back problems hunching at our computers for hours.
My point is that, as joyful as writing is, it can also be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. Not to mention, isolating. Which is why writers’ retreats are a thing.
In Absence of Mallets, MacKintyre Sullivan has moved in with Shannon and opened his Lighthouse Mansion for writers’ retreats to give back to the community that helped him rise to the top of the bestsellers lists. In the book, Mac sends the visiting writers down to the beach in the dark for a writing exercise. Shannon and Mac settle together on the porch to await their return…(No spoilers in this snippet.)
Without warning, there was a horrific scream. Then another. Over the roar of the ocean waves breaking on the shore, the ear-shattering screams continued to fill the night air.
We both jumped up from the sofa.
“What in the world?” I threw the blanket down.
“Stay here,” Mac commanded.
Had he gone crazy? “No way!”
“Then stay close,” he said, and grabbed my hand. And we both ran to the beach.
As far as I know.
Jenn, Paige, and I get together once or twice a year to help each other brainstorm books. This isn’t a relaxation retreat for us—it’s work—but it feels rejuvenating because we’re sharing the load. Rather than doing writing exercises like the writers in Absence of Mallets, we focus on specific stories for which we’re already under contract. We call it our plot group.
When we can’t meet in person, we meet virtually, but it’s not the same. There’s something almost magical about having three creative minds in one room. I think the walls deflect ideas back into the air, where they stick to one another and become something new and exciting.
Still, it’s better than not getting together at all. I’ll be eternally grateful to Jenn and Paige for their contributions to Absence of Mallets. And I look forward to our next writers’ retreat.
About Absence of Mallets
Contractor Shannon Hammer steels her nerve to pin down a killer in the latest Fixer-Upper Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Premeditated Mortar.
Shannon could not be happier that her hunky thriller-writing boyfriend, Mac, has moved in, and it is a good thing they are living together because they are both busier than ever. Mac is hosting writing retreats at his now vacant lighthouse mansion, while Shannon and her crew build Homefront, a quaint Victorian village of tiny homes for veterans in need. Mac’s latest guests are proving to be a handful though, and Shannon has heard some grumbling from the luminaries of Lighthouse Cove about her latest passion project. But nothing can throw a wrench in their plans except a malicious murder.
When one of Shannon’s new friends is found brutally bludgeoned with a mallet near the lighthouse on Mac’s property, the couple hammers out a suspect list and searches for a motive. As they drill deeper for clues, more violence strikes and a new victim winds up in a coma. The pressure is on, and Shannon and Mac will have to move fast to find an unhinged killer dead set on demolishing anyone who gets in their way.
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To enter to win a copy of Absence of Mallets, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “mallets,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 29, 2022. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT WILL TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode went up this week.
An excerpt from one of Kate’s books was featured in a past episode of the podcast. You can find it by clicking here or listen on the player below:
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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. 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.