by Kathleen Costa
This week we are featuring several mysteries with an Irish connection in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. One of them is Killing in C Sharp by Alexia Gordon. We also have an interesting interview with Alexia. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Killing in C Sharp, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
Killing in C Sharp: A Gethsemane Brown Mystery series by Alexia Gordon
Review by Kathleen Costa
Music Can Be Murder! Series earns 5+/5 Felonious Notes and Ghostly Sidekicks!
Alexia Gordon has garnered praise introducing us to thirty-six-year-old African-American Gethsemane Brown, a highly educated (Vasser, doctorate from Yale) talented musician and ex-pat in Dunmallach, Ireland. She has taken a position at St. Brennan’s School for Boys as a teacher of general and instrumental music and ‘Maestra” of the honors orchestra. Not the job she originally sought, but that Dublin job went to the conductor’s mistress. However, she refuses to return home in defeat…she’d rather be unemployed than deal with her mother and sister.
Murder in G Major, first published in September 2016, has things going from bad to very bad when Gethsemane’s luggage is lost and her money stolen, then very bad to worse discovering she has six-weeks to turn a mediocre boys’ orchestra into competition winners; last, worse to worst when she discovers residing in Carriagfaire Cottage is the ghost of her musical idol long dead for twenty-five years after a murder/suicide. (One of the best roommate situations ever.) He pleads for her help to uncover the truth, reveal a murderous conspiracy, and allow him the opportunity to move on. Totally entertaining! I was hooked, and even more engaged with the audio version, enriched by Jessica Carroll’s voice artistry. It is an excellent way to enjoy this highly praised story filled with delightful accents from Gethsemane’s American to a variety of entertaining Irish brogues.
Alexia follows up her success with Death in D Minor and another clever mystery. Dr. Brown is quite the virtuoso in more than music; she has proven to be pretty good at sleuthing, too. However, her skill gets challenged when the surprising appearance of her brother-in-law and museum curator Jackson Applethwaite, set to bid on an early American miniature sampler, turns into him being accused of theft when the sampler goes missing…but could the charge be murder when the owner of the sampler is found dead? Law enforcement approach Gethsemane for her assistance in their investigation of a ring of art forgers and thieves, so of course, things get very serious. She tries to conjure up her helpful ghost Eamon McCarthy to help exonerate her brother-in-law, but something goes delightfully wrong…Captain Lachlan, at your service! I am such a big fan, and the audio version, enriched by the voice talent of narrator Helen Duff, was the perfect way to revisit this story…everyone is brought to life from the varying accents, emotions, and personalities.
Killing in C Sharp earns 5+/5 Ghostly Apparitions…and Murderous Revenge!
So much is going on in Alexa Gordon’s third book that it just may be the best one yet! First, Gethsemane’s plan to thwart the sale of Carriagfaire has resulted in a hitch…you know, no good dead goes unpunished? Revealing Eamon’s ghost to be “dead and well” may have derailed the lucrative sale, but it has forced Billy McCarthy, owner and Eamon’s living nephew, to contract Ghost Hunters Adventures to investigate paranormal activity…for a good sum of money, of course, and Gethsemane will cooperate or vacate the premise. Second, acclaimed composer Áed Daniels, scheduled to lecture and hold a master class at St. Brennan’s, has written a new opera based on a Hungarian legend fraught with death, shame, revenge…and a curse? Not only would the composer be in jeopardy from a thirteenth-century curse, but anyone who witnesses the production may be putting their life in danger. Third, the composer has a serious conflict with a music critic who publicized a plagiarism claim that turned out to not be true, but instead of retracting his report, he doubled down with claims of an affair that led to a young woman’s suicide. Then, there’s a true crime author arriving hoping to revise her popular book after its claims had been debunked, Gethsemane’s continued friendship with her ghost roommate, and…another murder? Yes, this is the best book…ever!
Alexa Gordon has become a favorite…a big favorite! This third book delightfully entertains with a paranormal twist realistically incorporated into the storyline. It is not juvenile hocus-pocus; the ghosts, ghost hunters, curses, and unexplained events and smells all work well. Alexa’s descriptions and dialogue help give the reader a true sense of the surroundings, emotions, and personalities to get anyone invested in this series. She also seems to tap into a need to have an African-American heroine in the popular cozy mystery genre. Gethsemane is strong, yet not without her flaws—an all around admirable character. Newbies need not shy away since enough background and character connections are provided without spoilers, but I highly recommend all three books be read in order…you wouldn’t start with dessert in your three-course meal, would you? I greatly enjoyed the audio versions of book one and two so well that I can actually hear the Irish brogues in my head. That was fun!
Be a Big Alexia Gordon Fan!
A writer since childhood, I put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. Medical career established, I returned to writing fiction. I completed SMU’s Writer’s Path program in Dallas, Texas. Henery Press published my first novel, Murder in G Major, book one of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries, in September 2016. Book two, Death in D Minor, released July 11, 2017. Book three, Killing in C Sharp, came out March 6, 2018.
Our Guest…Alexia Gordon
Author of the Gethsemane Brown Mystery series
KRL: It is great to have with us Alexia Gordon, author of the very entertaining Gethsemane Brown Mystery series, celebrating the new release of the third book, Killing in C Sharp. Can you give us a mini biography for Alexia Gordon? Who is she and what influenced her to become a writer?
Alexia: I’m an African American physician who grew up reading mysteries and ghost stories and fantasy and sci-fi. I was the kid in school who always had her nose in a book and a library card in her bag. My parents always encouraged my writing at the same time they encouraged me to be practical and pursue a career that would allow me to support myself while writing. I’m from Virginia, grew up in Maryland, and my family tree’s roots stretch to South Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama. Since leaving home to go to college, I’ve lived all over the country. My experience of living in so many different places while having ties to the South and coming to terms with the South’s complicated history has influenced the development of my main character, Gethsemane Brown.
KRL: Is there a reason you chose to write in the cozy mystery genre? What is it about cozies that interested you?
Alexia: I chose to write cozies because I’m a fan of classic mysteries but not a fan of graphic violence. I’m most interested in the puzzle of a mystery. I enjoy following the amateur sleuth as he or she outwits a killer. I also enjoy seeing justice meted out to the antagonist at the end of the battle of wits.
KRL: Murder in G Major (September 2016) was the first book in the Gethsemane Brown series following up with Death in D Minor (July 2017). Can you give us some insights into how the series started? Tell us a little about Gethsemane Brown. Her name is so delightfully unique. Is there a story there or just pulled out of a hat?
Alexia: The series began as a class assignment for the Writer’s Path creative writing program at Southern Methodist University. I had, literally, ten minutes to come up with a story idea. I remembered a daydream I’d had about an Irish pub and combined it with my love of music and ghost stories. The name Gethsemane Brown just came to me, but it was inspired by the sound of an exotic first name juxtaposed against a common last name, such as Cleopatra Jones and Aphrodite Jones.
KRL: You included a fascinating paranormal twist with a ghost that works so well, and your bio mentions you love a good ghost story. Can you give us some insights into why you choose a ghost? How did that come about?
Alexia: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is one of my favorite movies, and I love M.R. James’s ghost stories. The Travel Channel show, Ghost Adventures is one of my guilty pleasures. A ghost insisted on being in my books.
KRL: Your first book, Murder in G Major (which I personally loved) garnered you some recognition. Can you ‘toot your own horn’ by telling us about the honors you received? Are there any other recognitions you’ve received that you’d like to mention?
Alexia: Thank you, I’m glad you loved it. Murder in G Major was honored with Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel, an Agatha Award nomination for Best First Novel, and as a?Suspense magazine “Best of 2016” selection in Debut Novel category. Killing in C Sharp was just honored with a starred review in the January 29, 2018, issue of Publisher’s Weekly.
KRL: I was fascinated with the focus on music and the contemporary setting of Ireland. What research did you do? Are there any anecdotes to share about making these characters and the community so realistic? Please tell me you visited Ireland…
Alexia: I wrote Murder in G Major while living in Dallas, Texas, and had the advantage of living within walking distance of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Most of my musical research involved attending many, many symphony performances and reading the extensive show notes in the programs. I also have some musician friends who gave me tips. And I love Irish pub songs. I follow several Irish music playlists on Spotify. I did visit the eastern side of Ireland (The Giant’s Causeway, Dublin, and Waterford) once, several years before I wrote Murder in G Major, and I visited again, as a present to myself, the week after “Murder in G Major” was published. Mostly, I picture the people and places in my head, like I’m watching a movie, then translate what I see in my head into words on the page. An advantage to being an introvert is that I’m good at living in my head.
KRL: The characters you’ve created are so universal. They could be our neighbors, shop owners, family. Do you have a personal connection to any of them? Are you like Gethsemane? Did you write your characters by taking real-life people and “changing the names to…,” you get my drift?
Alexia: Gethsemane is wish fulfillment. She does and says the things I wish I could do and wish I could get away with saying. All of my characters really are made up. I haven’t disguised any of my enemies as murder victims. Yet.
KRL: Three books down, what does the future hold for your Gethsemane Brown Mystery series? Do you have any professional goals to write another series or in another genre?
Alexia: I signed a contract with Henery Press to write a total of ten Gethsemane Brown books. I’m working on number four, Fatality in F, now. I do plan to write another mystery series. I’m working on some ideas now–nothing I’m ready to share. I’d also love to write science fiction or fantasy, the other two genres I grew up reading.
KRL: In your bio it mentions you went to medical school and completed a Family Medicine residency training. First, wow! Second, are their connections that compliment writing mysteries?
Alexia: My love of puzzle solving is what attracted me to a career in medicine. Signs and symptoms are a lot like clues. As a detective puts together clues to solve a mystery, a physician puts together signs and symptoms to make a diagnosis.
KRL: Your bio also mentions you love classical music. Do you play an instrument? Do you have a composer or musician that you favor?
Alexia: I love classical music but, sadly, have no real musical talent. I took piano lessons as a kid so could probably peck out a tune on the piano but not so well that I’d let anyone listen to me. I don’t have a single favorite musician, but I have some I prefer to others. I like Beethoven, Bach, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, and Holst better than Mozart, Brahms, and Chopin.
KRL: You definitely have provided a great deal of entertainment for your fans of cozies, but is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Alexia: I’m actually okay with readers turning to Gethsemane Brown for entertainment. We get so wrapped up in real life–work, family, politics, crime, trauma, war, poverty, environmental damage, abject suffering. So many horrible things that we can’t turn a page or a change a channel to escape from. It’s healthy to be able to take a mental break from the unrelenting grimness of the world. I hope my books give readers a place to rest their brain for a while. I guess in the “bigger picture” I want readers to be able to imagine an educated, middle class, African American woman as an amateur sleuth as easily as they imagine an elderly English spinster or a dapper Belgian detective.
KRL: I know the writing process is unique to each writer. Can you give us an idea about the “Alexia Gordon Technique” for writing: writing schedule, specific writing technique or time of day, outlines…are there lots of Post-it notes on the wall?
Alexia: I wish I was as organized as this question implies I am. Whenever, wherever is my only “routine”. I have to fit writing in around my day job. When things at the day job are calm, I get more writing done. When work is chaotic, I confess writing suffers. I write a lot by hand. I feel more connected to what I write when I use a pen instead of the keyboard. Pen and paper are also more portable than a laptop. I can scribble a few words at lunch, while waiting for appointments, trying not to fall asleep in interminable meetings, etc.
KRL: How did you go about getting published? Do you have any anecdotes to share about getting your work published?
Alexia: Getting Murder in G Major published was a matter of right place, right time. My query letters mostly went unanswered, so I tried signing up for pitch sessions at conferences. I pitched to Henery Press’s Kendel Lynn at the DFW Writers Conference in Dallas. Kendel happened to be looking for a light paranormal cozy, and I happened to have a completed manuscript for a light paranormal cozy. I actually got an agent after I got a contract offer. I was much easier to sell to an agent with a contract in hand. Paula Munier from Talcott Notch helped me negotiate.
KRL: Did you receive any sage advice or encouragement that you might share with an aspiring or beginning writer?
Alexia: I don’t know how sage it is, but my advice is don’t give up. Write the best story you can (note I didn’t say perfect), invest in an editor–writing instructor, freelancer, English major friend who owes you a favor, then shop your story until you find an agent or a publisher who’s looking for what you’re offering. And don’t fixate on finding an agent first. There are some publishers who will accept un-agented manuscripts. And don’t blame anyone who rejects you. Agents and editors are doing a job, they have bills to pay just like everyone else, so they may be hesitant to invest in something they don’t believe in. Don’t rant or retaliate, just move on to the next one. Remember, these people talk to each other at cocktail parties. You don’t want them to talk badly about you.
KRL: We know you write, but do you get a chance to read? Is there another author who inspires you or one you might consider a professional or personal hero?
Alexia: I read, not as much as I’d like to or as I used to. My TBR pile is much bigger than my reality. I tend to return to the classics. My favorites are Agatha Christie and M.R. James. I’m also a fan of the British Library’s Classic Crime series. I’m rediscovering Rex Stout. His Archie Goodwin was my first literary crush.
KRL: So many authors speak of connecting with their fans. Do you have any online events, bookstores, or conventions coming up?
Alexia: March 17 I’ll be speaking at Murder and Mayhem Chicago. I’m planning a book signing for Killing in C Sharp in Lake Forest at Lifeworking. I’ll be at Malice Domestic in April and ThrillerFest in July.
KRL: So many authors say writing is all encompassing, but do you have any favorite hobbies you enjoy?
Alexia: I enjoy going to the symphony. I don’t get to go as often as I did when I was in Dallas because I’m not in walking distance of symphony hall anymore, but I do attend Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lake Forest Symphony performances when I can. I also enjoy traveling. Most of my travel recently has been either for my day job or to writers’ conferences, but despite having to work during the trips, I’ve gotten to explore some interesting places. I like to sew. I’m working on some embroidery projects. Still have a lot of work to do on them. I collect fountain pens and sometimes actually use them to write letters. I’m active in the Altar Guild ministry. I’ve served on the Altar Guild at almost every church I’ve attended. I’m interested in history, especially historical architecture, medical history, and historical oddities.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Alexia: I lived in Alaska for three years, and I won a ribbon in the State Fair for a duct tape project.
KRL: Ok, here’s something fun, Alexia…Rapid Fire!
Ready! Set! Go!
Coffee or Tea? —both, but coffee more
Dog or Cat? — both. I have a cat right now, but I’ve had dogs in the past.
Carnivore or Herbivore? —Omnivore
Pie or Cake? —Cake. Unless it’s pecan pie.
Picnic or 5-star Restaurant? —5-star foodie
Print/eBook or Audio version? —print. I love the feel of paper.
Theater or Wait for the DVD? — Netflix
Favorite Actor? —Denzel Washington
Favorite Actress? —Thandie Newton (in case she reads this and wants to narrate my next audiobook)
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? —Bourbon, neat
Beachfront Property or Cabin in the Woods? —Midtown boutique hotel
Active or Cuddling in a Comfy Chair? —Urban exploring
Finish these sentences:
If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be —Archbishop Desmond Tutu
If I had just one wish, it would be —Happiness
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be —I don’t think I want to trade places with anyone!
KRL: This has been great connecting with you. We’ve covered so many topics and had some fun, too. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Alexia: Thank you for reading my books.
Thank you, Alexia, for joining us and sharing a little about yourself and your books.
Check out other Henery Press mysteries on their website.
To enter to win either a copy of Killing in C Sharp, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “sharp,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 17, 2018. U.S. residents only for the print copy. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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