by Kathleen Costa
Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win either a print or ebook copy of Kangaroo Dreaming, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Kangaroo Dreaming: Digby Sloan Mystery series by Sally J. Smith & Jean Steffens
Review by Kathleen Costa
Digby Sloan has been hired as security for a 300-year old wooden icon called the “Kangaroo Dreaming” set to be the premier piece in an exhibit at the Royal Museum of London. The trip from Australia to London was long, but uneventful. However, the appearance of an Aboriginal man at the airport and on the street sets his little ‘gremlin’ (his professional sixth sense) chattering. The chattering gets louder when the Aboriginal is spotted outside the museum. Sneaking closer, Digby puts the man off guard. Although the Kurrawa clan has confidence in Digby’s skill, they already had plans for Aborigine, Clive Guruwindara, nicknamed “Sharkfella,” to provide further protection of their sacred totem. Both believed all was set up and secured, but a frantic phone call at four in the morning proves them wrong. A theft and a murder!
Inspector Phineas Finnegan from Scotland Yard doesn’t share much, except that he considers Digby a ‘person of interest,’ and he’s not quite sure what to make of the Aboriginal. He still sends them off to assist in finding a killer and the missing “roo.”Digby and Sharkfella, who spends more time in the loo, eating or going on ‘walkabout,’ are on their own. A surprisingly good partnership leads to the discovery of privileged information, mistresses, heirs, newspaper articles, strange family dynamics and an octopus. Watch out, when the second body shows up!
I really enjoyed this ‘cozy’ romp from authors Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens. The mystery was clever and the characters were fun…I really like “Sharkfella.” The writing was loads of fun with more than a few moments of ‘giggles’ courtesy of Digby’s dry sense of humor, and the ‘sparks’ in the garden cottage? Whew, a wild fire!
Much like Christie herself, Smith and Steffens provide an endearing, yet flawed detective team who by their wits sort through the clues, and a mystery not short on twists and turns and chases all over. Although the authors say the book isn’t a true cozy, I find the little bit of edge to be very entertaining and a male protagonist a fresh detour, bringing to mind detectives like Jim Rockford with a dash of sexy Remington Steele.
Kangaroo Dreaming earns 5/5 Ancient Aboriginal Totems!
Our Guests…Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens, Authors of the Digby Sloan Mystery Series:
KRL: It is great to have with us my favorite writing team of Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens, author of the Digby Sloan Mystery series, celebrating the release of their new collaboration Kangaroo Dreaming.
Writing as a team must be a very different type of collaboration. How did the two of you get together? How do you meld together two different personalities so successfully?
Sally J. Smith: We met at a Sisters in Crime meeting, became friends and discovered we have the same warped sense of humor and general attitudes. Not necessarily a good thing, but, well, you know…as to the melding, I just give Jean whatever the heck she wants!
Jean Steffens: We tackled an old mystery of mine that needed some updating and discovered we worked well together, so we decided to see if we could put a book together from scratch. And we did. As to the melding, I just give Sally whatever the heck she wants!
Sally & Jean: Seriously, the melding part was serendipitous. Sally is pretty much right-brained. Jean is pretty much left-brained. When you put both our heads together, we have one fairly functional mind ? well, almost.
KRL: Is there a reason you chose to write in the cozy mystery genre? What is it about cozies that interested you? Even your Digby Sloan Mystery series seems to be a cozy with an edge.
Sally: I’m writing cozies right now because #1: they allow me a kind of whimsy and humor that harder, more traditional mysteries don’t always have room for, and #2: the market’s hot.
Jean: I like to read cozies. I like that sense of community and getting to know the characters. In a cozy series, I get to go back to both the people and places time and time again. I also tend to be uncomfortable writing sex and/or violence and don’t have to when we work on cozies.
KRL: Can you give us some background into the Digby Sloan Mystery series? How different was it writing from a male perspective? What can we look forward to in the future?
Sally and Jean: Kangaroo Dreaming did turn out to be one of our more challenging projects. He’s an Aussie through and through, and harder yet, he’s male. First person androgyny from a studly male point of view wasn’t the easiest thing for two moms to write. But we imagined who our perfect man would be: fun-loving and not too serious, gentle and cuddly, kind and empathetic, ethical and loyal, strong and manly, brilliant and good at his job, honest and sincere. Voila! Digby Sloan. Perfect, but then we had to give the man a few shortcomings. So, Digby tends to fly by the seat of his pants when it comes to his job – and that doesn’t always work out. He also has a real soft spot for the ladies, and God knows that doesn’t always work out so great either!
We’re thinking Digby’s next adventure will be on a cruise ship when he’s sent to investigate a series of high-dollar painting thefts that have been tracked to a ring of cruise ship employees. Because these are set in foreign or exotic locations and because of the “Aussieness,” the Digby Sloan books are longer, more research-heavy projects than our other series.
KRL: You have also collaborated on other books…very eclectic indeed. From Gemma Halliday Publishing we have Mystic Isle Mystery series, Aloha Lagoon Mystery series, and Danger Cove Pet Sitters Mystery series, and then there is the P.I.s Jordan Welsh & Eddie Marino series. How do you choose your themes or story lines? What can we expect in the future?
Sally: Our themes and story lines tend to arise from the different settings and the characters, both primary and secondary. As we mentioned earlier, for all the books we’re currently writing, humor is a major factor. Making our readers smile or, we can only hope, laugh out loud is so rewarding. So, while the mystery is murder, which isn’t funny, we try to find a subplot or background to incorporate that lightens things up a bit.
Our next release is Divas, Diamonds & Death, Danger Cove Pet Sitter Mystery #2 from Gemma Halliday Publishing, out in July.
“This little piggy went to market. This little piggy stayed home. This little piggy got kidnapped, and her diamond collar was swiped, and then there was a murder and false accusations… and… and… oh my goodness!”
Out in September is Mystic Mischief, Mystic Isle Mystery Book 3.
“When a fortune hunter is murdered at Mystic Isle, the place goes crazy with treasure seekers after a priceless document tied to the pirate Jean Lafitte. Mel Hamilton and the motley crew from The Mansion band together to find the killer, while the very ghost of the pirate himself may be running amuck at the resort. Aye, me hearties.”
KRL: With such a diverse assortment of books. What fuels your creative juices? Do you rely on a lot of research? Did you get to travel to England for the Digby Sloan series?
Sally: We tend to spark each other’s imaginations. It’s a perk of team-writing that also tends to keep us from getting the writers’ block that plagues a lot of authors. England is one of my favorite destinations. I used to own a travel agency and just had to travel to familiarize myself with the places I recommended to clients. It was a tough gig, but, well, you know…
Jean: We’re a little compulsive about research, believing that if we slack off and don’t do our homework, readers will catch us at it and if the readers don’t, our editors surely will. So, yes, we kind of beat the living daylights out of a subject before we write about it.
KRL: You definitely have provided a great deal of entertainment for your fans, but is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Sally and Jean: If you read between the lines, there’s usually a bit of a message there. A little bit of Sally and Jean bleeding through. We can’t help it. In the Mystic Isle series, Mel, our main character, is a really good and generous young woman, and a big part of her life is giving back.
In the Danger Cove series, both books have a thread regarding compromise running through them. In the Aloha Lagoon series, the main character struggles to loosen up and learn to run her life, not let her life run her.
The thread we’ve run through the Digby character is about not sweating the small stuff or taking things that don’t matter too seriously. He’s also someone really comfortable in his skin and tends to be stay true to himself.
KRL: We know you write, but what do you read? Is there another author who inspires you or one you might consider a professional or personal hero?
Sally: Holy smoke. Every time I get asked this question it sets my head on fire. I read and am crazy about so many different authors, I just can’t even begin to narrow down the list. Not only do I read many authors, I read just as many genres, so the question always throws me for a loop. Sorry.
Jean: I’m currently all caught up in Lee Childs’ Jack Reacher series. Before that, I devoured Stuart Woods’ Stone Barrington series. In between, I read cozies from our sister GHP authors and others Sally and I have met and have come to enjoy.
KRL: So many authors say writing is all encompassing, but do you have any special hobbies? Favorite movies you like to watch? Any television bingeing? What about music you enjoy or hobbies that take up what free time you may have?
Sally: Movies. TV–BBC stuff like Doctor Who and Sherlock, also The Blacklist, The Walking Dead, Elementary, and really digging Josh Gates’ Expedition Unknown right now, too. And YES, music–ALL kinds from opera to pop. I’m also crazy about Andrew Lloyd Weber musicals and musicals in general. I love to cook, but just the cooking part. The cleanup part gives me the cold sweats.
Jean: Bruno Mars is one of my favorites singers right now, I love his upbeat love songs. Hawaii Five-O is my current TV binge. I also love to go to the theater for plays when I have a chance.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Sally: I sang backup at a recording session once and rocked it! I’m dying to get a racy tattoo, but know I’d take massive heat from EVERYone, especially Jean, so I’ve taken that off the bucket list for now, anyway. I LOVE celebrity gossip and have a hearty helping every morning for breakfast with my coffee. If my family didn’t keep me from it, I’d probably be one of those dog-hoarding ladies ? just love ’em all and the more, the merrier, I say.
Jean: I tend to read several books at a time?one in the car, another on my nightstand, and a different one in my purse. That way I always have a great one at hand when I need it. Horror movies freak me out. One of my favorite things is going out for high tea at some cozy little tea room with my girlfriends or my daughter. That’s the best?tiny tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, big fancy hats?so much fun. I watch TV in bed while eating popcorn?racy, right? Have to admit it isn’t all that popular with my husband. I really, really hate exercising, instead I just walk my dog.
KRL: Thank you, Sally and Jean, for joining us and sharing a little about yourselves and your books.
Sally & Jean: No. Thank YOU!
To enter to win either a print or ebook copy of Kangaroo Dreaming, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “kangaroo,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 29, 2017. 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. PLEASE STATE IN ENTRY WHETHER YOU WANT A PRINT OR EBOOK COPY.
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