The Trouble with Murder By Vanessa A. Ryan: Review/Interview/Giveaway

Apr 9, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Kathleen Costa, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Kathleen Costa

This week we have a review of the first Hetty Carson Mystery by Vanessa A. Ryan along with an interesting interview with Vanessa. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of the book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.

The Trouble with Murder: Hetty Carson Mystery #1 By Vanessa A. Ryan
Review by Kathleen Costa

“Someone killed Gerry Delaney last week. I know I didn’t do it, but the cop in my face wasn’t so convinced.” —The Trouble with Murder

Thirty-something Hetty, short for Henrietta, Carson is a sales rep for Mendoza’s Tequila Mixers which explains why her business card was found by the police investigating Gerry Delaney’s murder. She had regularly visited the man’s bar hoping to make Delaney’s a regular customer, and unfortunately, she was one of the last people to see him alive. Hetty is also a licensed private detective, an interesting career choice precipitated by a divorce and imperative need for a job. Her ex-husband cheated friends and clients, then skipped bail leaving Hetty very much on her own: living in a one-room apartment above a sewing factory in the Garment District, relying on commission, and hoping a new client would walk through the door. She just didn’t expect her new client would be…herself.

The Trouble with Murder Earns 5/5 Tequila Shots…Engaging & Clever Fun!
Hetty has been grilled by the police, especially the unfriendly Detective Ed Malone, several times since she found herself connected to multiple victims in a trail of gruesome murders. Her personal interest is obvious since her connection has raised red flags with Malone, and her professional interest since she’s had success being a private investigator. But, this interest has raised the interest of the killer, or killers, leading to her being bashed on the head, thrown into an alley, shot at twice, and generally stalked all over L.A. The whole matter has greatly effected her personal life, and the surprise appearance of her ex-husband has put her in more danger. So, she is going to do things right, hiring herself as a private investigator to find out what is behind the multiple murders, the police surveillance, and her husband’s adamant pleas for help.

Cheers! Brilliant! Wham! Vanessa A. Ryan starts right off with our protagonist, Hetty Carson, in the line of [questioning] fire and under a dark cloud of suspicion, and if that doesn’t grab your attention, just wait… Several murders occur, most off the page, with surprising victims, flimsy connections to Hetty, and an antagonistic detective, and it all opens up intriguing suspects and motives, but a link that Hetty found between the victims opens a fascinating avenue of interest. Ryan ensures that several characters hide well their motivations including a fellow sales rep whose romantic interest is suspicious. Filled with dramatic intrigue, surprising details, and personal peril from which Hetty shows an aptitude to avoid…Duck! The conclusion has a realistic explanation for the readers’ closure and most people are held accountable, but the one area connected to her ex-husband’s curious pleas for help seemed unresolved. I greatly enjoyed the first-person narrative highlighting Hetty’s ideas, inner thoughts, and reflections, which seems to be the major part of the drama, and the dialogue was portrayed realistically. Frequently she made the statement “That is the trouble with murder,” related to the title, then cleverly offers insights to support Hetty’s inner banter.

Hetty Carson is an admirable and, surprisingly for a first book, well-developed character. She’s trying to deal with the aftermath related to her fall from the “Big Life” by taking poverty by the horns and keeping herself afloat, but all this attention is problematic. She struggles as to whether or not she should just work for a paycheck or focus on a career she enjoys. She has already transitioned into life as a licensed private investigator, and in recognizing her opportunities, she embraces her inner detective, of course, not without some personal danger. Excellent.

Be a Vanessa A. Ryan Fan!
On her website, Vanessa A. Ryan says, “Like most writers, I grew up reading every book I could get my hands on. I especially liked reading mystery books. I always wished I could be another Nancy Drew and solve real life mysteries. Instead, I ended up writing them.” The next Hetty Carson book, tentatively titled Havoc in Havana, is in the works with a 2023 release as the goal. Check out Vanessa’s other books, sign up for her newsletter, and join her on Facebook!

Facebook: Vanessa A. Ryan Novels
Website: Vanessa A. Ryan

Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying year 2 of retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband of 26+ years.

Interview with Vanessa A. Ryan:

KRL: How long have you been writing?

Vanessa: I started writing in 1989. I began with writing a short story. It was a funny horror story. I never got it published, and now I’m working on it as a novella.

KRL: When did your first novel come out, what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?

Vanessa A. Ryan

Vanessa: My first novel came out in 2013. It was an urban fantasy titled, A Blue Moon. It wasn’t the first novel I had written, but it was the first to be published. I had read Ray Bradbury’s Death is a Lonely Business, an urban fantasy that takes place in Venice, California. It wasn’t one of his most popular novels, but it inspired me to write my first urban fantasy.

It’s about a young woman who dreams of becoming a famous artist. Her day job is that of a long-term substitute teacher in a middle school. As she doesn’t have a permanent contract, she makes less than the other teachers, but she really doesn’t want a contract because she wants to make it as an artist. Her boyfriend is a rising star in the art world, and she hopes he will help that happen. Except, he’s more interested in helping his own career.

She inherits some property in the mountains from a distant uncle, but the lawyers handling the estate tell her it may need a lot of repairs. Realizing that her life seems to have hit a stalemate, she goes to a fortune-teller who gives her a medallion on a chain, telling her that starting with the night of the blue moon, which is Halloween, if she wears the medallion around her neck, whatever she wishes for will come true. Unfortunately, she discovers that only bad things come true. Then she finds out that she can’t take the necklace off and she can’t stop thinking of the fortune-teller’s words. Her life becomes a nightmare, and worse, the fortune teller has disappeared so she can’t help her either.

KRL: Other that that first book, have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not, what else have you written?

Vanessa: I have written horror stories, but they always have a mystery element to them.

KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?

Vanessa: I wanted to have a female private detective based in L.A., but not in the trendiest part of L.A. and I chose the Garment District. It’s gritty and it suits the element of noir that I wanted in the novel. I wanted to make the detective a less-than-perfect character.

KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to experience from your work?

Vanessa: I don’t know exactly why I write. I seem driven to do it. I tend to write about people who find themselves in situations beyond their control, and somehow, they have to figure a way out, so their lives can get back to normal.

KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just work whenever you can?

Vanessa: I try to set deadlines for myself, but I don’t have a regular schedule, though I plan ahead of time that I’m going to write on a certain day and how many words I want to write for that day.

KRL: What is your ideal time to write?

Vanessa: I enjoy writing in the late morning after I’ve had breakfast and I’ve read my emails. I also feel more inspired on foggy or rainy days, but once I get going it doesn’t matter what type of day it is.

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?

Vanessa: When I first started writing I would put my ideas on 3×5 cards and then arrange them according to how they fit into the story. But now I do less outlining. I usually know how the story ends, though lately, I don’t know how I’ll get there or even who the culprit or murderer will be.

KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?

Vanessa: Very difficult, though early on I did have some agents who tried to sell my novels.

KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?

Vanessa: I had an agent who tried to sell an earlier version of A Palette for Murder but couldn’t. She suggested I write another episode for the same character. Instead, I had been working on A Blue Moon, and I sent that to her. Not only did she hate it, she left a voice message telling me so, but since I had one of those actual recording machines, I picked up as she was yelling into the phone how awful it was.

KRL: Most interesting book signing story in a bookstore or other venue?

Vanessa: I had a book signing at Barnes & Noble, and one woman had me sign my book and then proceeded to go into the coffee shop adjacent to the store. I had to run after her because she hadn’t paid for it. She was supposed to go to the register before she left the store.

KRL: What are your future writing goals?

Vanessa: I hope to get faster so I can produce more books.

KRL: Who are your writing heroes?

Vanessa: I love Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Stuart Palmer, G. K. Chesterton, Mary Roberts Rhinehart, Patricia Wentworth, Elizabeth Daly, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemmingway, Ross MacDonald, Dorothy B. Hughes, Cornell Woolrich, James M. Cain, Barbara Michaels, Graham Greene, Georgette Heyer, Patricia Highsmith, Darwin Teilhet, Hildegard Tolman Teilhet, Earl Derr Biggers, and Eric Ambler. I mean, there are just so many I couldn’t name them all.

KRL: What kind of research do you do?

Vanessa: I start with what I know, and then, depending on the topic, I will refresh my memory or find out something new about it by looking it up online or going to a specific location that I haven’t seen in a while.

KRL: What do you like to read?

Vanessa: I read mysteries and biographies of people I admire.

KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?

Vanessa: I watch a lot of true crime shows and mystery shows, especially the British ones. I like The Blacklist, Barry, In the Dark, and some of the other shows that feature characters who break the law because they’re usually funny and suspenseful. They are always on the verge of getting caught, but somehow, they don’t. I think that’s why I enjoyed reading Patricia Highsmith’s novels. I also like comedies such as The Conners, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and I like This is Us. I also watch some talk shows such as Real Time and Last Week Tonight. I love the programs on Masterpiece Theater.

KRL: Have you any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?

Vanessa: Keep writing and learn how to use social media.

KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Vanessa: I don’t know. I think I’m a most unsurprising person.

KRL: Do you have any pets?

Vanessa: I have three indoor cats, a black and white tuxedo named Dezi, a large orange one named Teger, and a small orange one named Riley. I’ve had them since 2014. Dezi is the youngest. I got him as a kitten. I also take care of a white, gray and brown calico feral named Divena. She lives outside and won’t let me touch her, even though I’ve had her since 2007.

At that time, I had a bunch of feral cats altered and vaccinated, and she stuck around. She runs away whenever I approach, but she likes to watch me when I’m working in the garden. Sometimes she sits right next to me. Every month I feed her a pill that takes care of her flea problem. I put it in her food bowl. My other cats won’t touch it, so I have to use the liquid stuff on them, but Divena is really good about eating it.

KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook? Instagram?

Facebook: Vanessa A. Ryan Novels
Website: Vanessa A. Ryan

To enter to win an ebook copy of The Trouble with Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “trouble,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 16, 2022. US only, and must be 18 or older to enter. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

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.

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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.


  1. I remembe the year Gerry Delaney Died…

    Count me in!

  2. We have a winner!


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