by Cynthia Chow
This week we review another food mystery-Death of a Bacon Heiress by Lee Hollis. We also have a fun interview with Lee (which is actually the brother and sister writing team of Rick Copp & Holly Simason). Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Death of a Bacon Heiress, along with a link to purchase the book where a portion goes to help support KRL & an indie bookstore, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Death of a Bacon Heiress By Lee Hollis
Review by Cynthia Chow
Although Hayley Powell may have finally settled into her position as the food and cocktails columnist for Bar Harbor’s Island Times newspaper, she is suffering from empty-nest syndrome while her two children are off at school. So it’s the perfect time for her to be offered a weekend trip to New York to appear on The Chat, a big-time nationally televised talk show. For their celebration of Bacon Week, Hayley will be demonstrating her signature dish of Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Stuffed Chicken Thighs. Although she probably shouldn’t have spent the night before taking advantage of the hotel’s mini-bar along with her BFFs Mona and Liddy, Hayley somehow manages to pull off the event with the help of the host/comedian/fan Rhonda Franklin.
It’s on the show that Hayley also meets Olivia Redmond, the new CEO of nearby Mount Desert’s Redmond’s Meats. Enamored with Hayley’s bacon-laden dishes, Olivia hires her to write a twice weekly blog for Redmond’s company website promoting bacon-infused recipes. She barely has time to write a word before Olivia’s beloved potbellied pig. Pork Chop, leads Hayley to his owner’s body, once again causing Hayley to intrude on rival Bruce Linney’s crime beat.
Hayley has a definite edge, considering her brother’s husband is the malapropism-prone sheriff, and she has very little sense of self-preservation. Further distracting her is her boyfriend Aaron Palmer, who Hayley is certain is about to break up with her. Or propose. She’s fifty-fifty either way. Temporarily housing Pork Chop doesn’t make living with her shih tzu Leroy or Persian cat Blueberry any easier, but it does inspire the hilarious and delicious Island Food & Spirits columns and recipes she somehow manages to write when not investigating. There’s a surplus of suspects to question, including Olivia’s smoking-hot Argentinian polo-playing boyfriend, her vegan son, and a displaced rival Palmer executive.
Readers entering this seventh book in the Hayley Powell Food & Cocktails Mystery series should be prepared for the absurdity and over-the-top antics of a heroine whose actions often defy common sense. Yet for as many times as Hayley gets herself in over her head, she is grounded in her love for her family and friends. Even her affection for bacon is based on the memories it stirs of her children. The tone is kept light and remains humorous throughout, yet the conclusion is heightened by a genuine threat of danger and imminent death. The final resolution has Hayley making a decision that strains credibility, while facing another that she never saw coming.
The brother and sister writing duo Rick Copp and Holly Simason have once again combined forces to skillfully craft a fun mystery that will have readers enraptured and wallowing vicariously in its bacon fumes.
Interview with Lee Hollis:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Holly: Well, as Lee Hollis is actually two people, we have two different answers for this question. I’ll be answering a few questions for my brother Rick Copp (who is the other half of Lee Hollis) who is busy working on a web series right now that he writes and produces. Rick has been in the writing business for 30 years. He started out professionally in 1988 when he was hired to write on the hit show Golden Girls. Since then he has written on many television series, movies, and writing projects. But he has always had a love of mysteries and writing them and he just can’t stay away from them. Rick’s first novel An Actors Guide to Murder was published in 2003 and was followed by two more in that series. He has his own website www.rickcopp.com for all of his writings.
I, on the other hand, always wanted to write but never quite found a subject, that is until I became obsessed with the Food Network. I was working as an office manager at the Mount Desert Island Newspaper when the food columnist for the paper decided to pursue other things. I quickly jumped at the chance to write the local food column or should I say begged my editor to let me try it. My Editor/boss Earl Brechlin on the other hand wasn’t so sure and after an exhausting a search for a new food columnist he finally relented and let me give it a try and “Island Cooking” was born in winter of 2009.
I of course had to add a cocktail recipe to each week’s column to spice it up a bit and being a single mom with three kids I was always mixing in stories about my every day life and people really seemed to enjoy it.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Holly: Our first Cozy Mystery novel came out in February 2012 Death of A Kitchen Diva
Diva, as we call our first book, introduces our main character Hayley Powell as a single mom who works as an office manager at her local hometown newspaper and writes a food and cocktail column while trying to make ends meet. She has two best girlfriends, her brother who she is extremely close, to and a pile of problems, and she always seems to find herself right in the middle of a murder mystery! Sound familiar? Well except for the murder mystery part.
KRL:What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Holly: Rick and I were both born and raised in Bar Harbor, Maine. I moved back in 1997 after my divorce to raise my three young kids. We love Bar Harbor and our many friends there. It just became our obvious choice when we began planning and talking about the series.
The character was based a bit from my life, and characters loosely on our friends. We use many real places in our stories and people seem to love that.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Holly: I find cozy mysteries very entertaining and we hope that our readers enjoy them and have fun, and also enjoy a great mystery too! Since Hayley writes seven food and cocktail columns in each book we have had some wonderful feedback from people trying out the recipes and cocktails!
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Holly: Well I know my brother is very structured I think it’s because he has been writing for a very long time and it’s his profession. I, on the other hand, find it harder to stick to a schedule, but I do prefer to write more in the morning and later in the afternoon. I rarely ever write at night unless something comes to me and I need to write it down. I would hate to interrupt my cocktail hour.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Holly: My brother definitely outlines. We know what the story is going to be and the murderer and he is very organized. When I know what the theme of the story is for example Death of a Bacon Heiress, I will make sure all of my recipes contain bacon and if possible even a few cocktails. I actually like writing everything for each book in it’s own notebook. I’m not sure why but it keeps me organized.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Holly: I wish I could write really early In the morning like 6 a.m. with a cup of hot coffee and have what I needed to have done by 9 a.m., because I love to cook and plan recipes. But I am not that organized and tend to sleep in a bit and get easily distracted.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Holly: I tell people I was very, very lucky. My brother, who was already writing, was talking to his publisher one day and mentioned that I was doing a food & cocktail column with bits about my daily life intertwined. His publisher mentioned we should combine Rick’s love of mysteries and my love of food and drink into a cozy mystery. Rick was visiting me in Bar Harbor and armed with two of my favorite things, two bottles of wine, and convinced me that I could do it! I agreed after the wine only if we wrote under a different name, so Lee Hollis was born. Lee is my middle name and Hollis is my brother’s.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Holly: I really don’t have one except on how lucky I was to get involved with this book and our publisher John Scognamiglio at Kensington Publishing in New York is fantastic!
KRL: Future writing goals?
Holly: I have had lots of people ask me to share recipes and tell me they would love to see a Hayley Powell Cookbook (the main character in our books) so I have finally been getting thing ready to try my hand at it and I’m getting pretty excited. I hope people will really love reading it.
KRL: How fun! Writing heroes?
Holly: My brother’s is Agatha Christie ? he can read those books over and over. I love reading anything by James Patterson, Harlan Coben, and of course Stephen King who is a fellow Mainer.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Holly: Rick’s great at researching how murder weapons are used like poison, allergic reactions etc. He’s always thinking up new twists to keep the reader guessing. I usually research food and drinks in my collection of recipes.
KRL: What do you read?
Holly: I love reading mysteries, cookbooks and my secret obsession anything about the Royals.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Holly: I love to watch the Food Network channel and DIY channels. It’s a dream of mine to some day be invited on the Chew television show, but I guess they would have to see one of the books first but who knows! I also love action/adventure movies and comedies. I do watch a lot of Netflix.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Holly: The advice I was given years before these books happened and I have never forgotten is “write what you know.” Always have a great copy editor because I am horrible at just running on and on and I’ve always had a great one!
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Holly: That I was in the Air Force for eight years and lived six of those years in Italy. It was one of the best times of my life.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Death of a Bacon Heiress, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “bacon,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 9, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
You can use this link to purchase this book & a portion goes to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section.