by Kathleen Costa
This week we have reviews of 2 books by Anna Celeste Burke: A Body on Fitzgerald’s Bluff and The Murder of Shakespeare’s Ghost. We also have a mini interview with Anna. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of both books (you can choose ebook or print), and links to purchase them from Amazon.
With a View of the Sea and Murder!
Miriam Webster, not connected to the dictionary, is dealing withbeing a new widow and struggling due to her husband’s poor investments. One option is to hide her fifty-years with glasses and hair dye and take up residence in the cottage her husband, who had met the age requirement, purchased at Seaview Cottages. Situated along the picturesque central coast of California, the active adult community for fifty-five or older cleverly is designed in circles of cottages christened with names of artists, writers (Miriam lives in the Hemingway Cottage), and personalities from theater and movies with residents ranging from staff to residents, singles to couples, level-headed to quirky and, of course, a few four-legged companions as well. Miriam is settling in nicely with her secret intake, making friends, and enjoying her life as a widow…well, until mayhem and murder take up residence.
A Body on Fitzgerald’s Bluff earns 5/5 Delightful Detective Discoveries!
A Body on Fitzgerald’s Bluff was released in late 2018 as the first book in Anna Celeste Burke’s new series Seaview Cottages Cozy Mystery, and I was very eager to read it. She employed her signature writing style by grabbing my attention right off with lots of excitement as Miriam and her Dalmatian Domino, along with the Seaview Cottages Walking Club, discover a dead body on the bluff sending panic throughout the community. After getting help and returning to the site with the sheriff, the body is no where to be found. When it does finally reappear, the mystery takes on engaging twist and turns, and several suspects with motives leaving a fascinating plot to determine who had opportunity and means. Being a first book and so many characters and connections to introduce, it was a bit overwhelming sorting through all the characters in the first couple of chapters, but it improved once the initial panic slowed down and the drama found a good pace. All of this with Burke’s signature clever plot challenging the readers deductive skill, an informative Cast of Characters list and chapter titles (I enjoy this), funny and admirable characters, entertaining banter, and a satisfying conclusion. With success using their amateur detecting skills four residents and Miriam have banded together as the Grand Old Lady Detectives (G.O.L.D.) ready for any additional mayhem that comes their way. Don’t forget Charly’s Angels as back-up along with one cranky and one hunky detective!
Alert! My two favorite words are “Recipes Included.” In this first book in the series, Anna provides several easy-to-follow recipes perfect for a Seaview Cottage pot-luck: Muffins, Queen City Chili, Death by Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Bean Scones, and Shoo-Fly Pie.
The Murder of Shakespeare’s Ghost earns 5/5 Brilliant Bard Conundrums!
“He’s here…Shakespeare’s ghost. He’s in my hallway,” she whispers. Robyn Chappell, a resident of the Seaview Cottages staying in the Shakespeare Cottage, is convinced that the bard himself is the home invader. The police think she’s crazy, so “Who ya gonna call?” Grand Old Lady Detectives. The team quickly heads over to their friend’s cottage to offer assistance. But, when they arrive seeing Carl and Joe chasing an eerie figure down the street, blood spots on Robyn’s porch, Neely’s story of being knocked down by someone, and the kitchen pantry in total disarray, this is something more corporeal at work here. Robyn says she’s had other break-ins and officially hires G.O.L.D. to discover why she’s being targeted. But, it’s the discovery of a dead body and human remains that are the most important events calling into question the owners and residents and putting the G.O.L.D. girls in peril.
Excellent! Anna Celeste Burke always writes such clever and engaging stories, and this new series has leapt to the top ten for 2019. She grabs the reader with immediate action and never lets go. The mystery, often with a dead body or two, current or decades old, is always cleverly laid out with legitimate and red herring clues pointing to more than one suspect challenging my inner detective and with a “Wow!” ending. But it’s the well-developed characters, often at a mature age, with which I can identify. I enjoy the first-person narrative that vicariously puts me, as the reader, in the middle and a generational perspective that I understand or have personal experience. It’s good to see a glimmer of romance woven through the drama, too. Anna’s writing style is excellent, entertaining and engaging, but I’d like to mention that I enjoy the chapter titles, and in this book she adds to the chapter intros quotes from Shakespeare that illustrate the drama. I love it…you’ve got to join in.
Extra! Extra! The Bard would have been deliciously inspired by these easy-to-follow recipes: Strawberry Cake, Baked Macaroni & Cheese, Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine, Anchovies, Garlic, and Herbs, Baked Ziti with Vegetables, and Triple Ginger Cookies.
Alert! Book three in the series, Grave Expectations on Dickens’ Dunes, is set to release in late May. The G.O.L.D. team is approached by one of their own’s old friend with a cold case needing closure. The friend’s son, a veteran of the Vietnam War, disappeared a few years after his return home, and although there was evidence of foul play, no body was ever found. It’s deathbed confessions, secrets worth killing for, and a mother’s desire to find her son’s grave that makes this personal for the Seaview Cottages’ team.
Be a Big Anna Celeste Burke Fan!
Anna Celeste Burke is the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of five series that are personal favorites. Her engaging five-book Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery series will add book six, A Dead Nephew, this year. The three-book Corsario Cove Mystery will also add one more, Radical Regatta, as a standalone in November, but it will be part of a limited edition Summer Snoops Unleashed: 14 Furr-ocious Mysteries and Cozy Crimes releasing on July 23. Her seven-book Georgie Shaw Cozy Mystery series is a top favorite (I love Georgie!). Along with Seaview Cottages Cozy Mystery series, she started a fun Calla Lily Mystery series with Lily’s Homecoming: Under Fire released this past January, but she’s working on book two Tangled Vines, Buried Secrets.
Behind the Scenes with Anna Celeste Burke
Setting is more than a Place, and Recipes? Why not!
Kathleen: Welcome to one of my favorite talented authors, Anna Celeste Burke! I have always been fascinated by what inspiration an author might have when determining the setting, characters, and background details. What’s the background buzz for your new series Seaview Cottage Cozy Mystery?
Anna: The back story for the Seaview Cottages comes from the history of the area between northern Santa Barbara County and Southern San Luis Obispo County, California. I talk about it briefly in A Body on Fitzgerald’s Bluff and Charly mentions it again at the end of The Murder of Shakespeare’s Ghost. The area that now encompasses the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Complex and the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Area has a history of being a little different. During the 30s and 40s, the area attracted people described as free-thinkers: mystics, artists, writers, and hermits, otherwise known as Dunites. Supposedly, Ella Young, a prominent member of the group, named the place Moy Mell, which means “pasture of honey” or “where the spirits dwell” in Gaelic. The most well-known writers who spent time there included John Steinbeck and Upton Sinclair. Other acclaimed visitors included photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston and artist Elwood Decker.
Even before the Dunites arrived, Cecil B. Demille filmed in the dunes near the town of Guadalupe. He built a huge set used in his groundbreaking silent movie classic, The Ten Commandments. The town of Halcyon, founded by Theosophists in 1898, still exists and isn’t far from Oceano near where the Dunite community of Moy Mell used to be. The area also attracted other “dreamers” who had more entrepreneurial aspirations for the area and hoped to turn Oceano into the “Atlantic City of the West.” I’ve mentioned this history, too, in passing. I’ve tried to weave together these threads of history as a backdrop to the Seaview Cottages Community.
On a more personal note, I love the idea of living in a cottage by the sea, immersed in a past inspired by such spirited people–especially writers. I’m a movie buff, too, so my Seaview Cottages Community also includes a “Cinema Circle.” Ocean views, mysterious shifting sands, and writers’ words whispered in the breezes…what more could anyone ask for?
Kathleen: As I’ve mentioned, my two favorite words in cozies isn’t “It’s murder!” It’s “Recipes Include”! I’m not a great cook, but I try. How do you choose the recipes you include in your series?
Anna: Sometimes the recipes are favorites—like Caprese Salad, Baked Mac & Cheese, Quiche, and the magret duck with fig and port sauce recipe that’s in Murder at Sea of Passenger X. For most of the recipes I include, there are dozens for these dishes. Mine aren’t so different than others you can find online, although I have my preferences and include them in my versions. Shepherd’s Pie is one of my husband’s favorites–although the way we prepare it with beef rather than lamb, it’s more often referred to by the Brits as “Cottage Pie.” Little facts like that work their way into “Georgie’s Tips” [in my Georgie Shaw Mystery series].
The Coquilles St. Jacques recipe that’s in one of the Georgie [Shaw] books is special because it was the dish I had to prepare for Disney Execs the night our class graduated from the Walt Disney World University Chef’s Training. I love spices and herbs so lots of the dishes reflect that—like Triple Ginger Molasses cookies in The Murder of Shakespeare’s Ghost—loaded with ginger! I usually say something about how to make a dish gluten-free since that’s how I do things now. It’s always an easy substitute for most dishes now that there are so many gluten free pasta and flour options.
Kathleen: Well, I may have been born in Idaho, but I’ve lived in California all my life, and my travels have taken me to many of the California locations Anna uses as the settings in her books. The vivid descriptions and interesting background beautifully showcases California’s desert, coast, and parts in-between. And bonus recipes make these books extra special as you channel your inner chef! Bon Appetit!
To enter to win ebook or print copies of both of these books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, with the subject line “seaside,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 6, 2019. Only US entries. If entering via comment please include your email address. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so we have it if you win, it will not be used for any other purpose). BE SURE TO MENTION IF YOU WANT PRINT OR EBOOK. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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