by Cynthia Chow
& Diane Vallere
This week we have a review of The Decorator Who Knew Too Much by Diane Vallere along with an interesting guest post by Diane. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of The Decorator Who Knew Too Much. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
The Decorator Who Knew Too Much: A Madison Night Mystery By Diane Vallere
Review by Cynthia Chow
A surprise trip to Palm Springs was to be the first romantic vacation for Mad for Mod decorator Madison Night and her new boyfriend, Hudson James. It was also planned as a paid working gig for Mad and the contractor, as Hudson’s brother-in-law was constructing a strip mall revolving around a modernized, mid-century theme. It should be perfect for the 50s and 60s loving Madison, especially as it would also give her a brief escape from Texas, where she had become far too intimate with Death. Her first meeting with Emma and Jimmy McKenna does not go as Mad had imagined, as just before they arrive she and Hudson are run off of the road and their car overturned by a speeding SUV.
Scared but relatively unharmed, Mad’s dreams of spending her days at thrift shops and flea markets are further dashed when she spots a body underneath the Whitewater River pier. When the corpse disappears before help can be found, the authorities write it off as a stress reaction due to Mad’s recent experiences. Ironically enough, any assumptions that she is delusional are proven wrong when a body is found, and it turns out to be the psychologist everyone keeps recommending. Mad’s introduction to her boyfriend’s family is going about as bad as it could go, as she becomes the repository of secrets and granted unwanted insight into Hudson’s sister’s marriage and possible involvement in murder.
What this series does so perfectly is balance the moments of light-hearted humor with the realistic repercussions of violence and crime. Few other “cozy” mysteries tackle the probable aftereffects that would occur to characters who repeatedly stumble upon murderers. Understandably suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mad has come to rely on her Shih Tzu Rocky for comfort and support.
While Rocky, named after Rock Hudson, is crucial to her mental health, Mad unknowingly receives far more official aid in the form of Tex Allen, the newly promoted Lakewood Police Captain. He has fallen for the Doris Day-loving decorator, and though he steps aside, Tex remains in the background doing what he can to ensure that Mad stays safe. The fourth in this compelling series only grows stronger as it brings to life an effervescent heroine battered by her experiences but refusing to give in to them. Mad’s idol Doris Day inspires not just her fashion sense but her outlook on life, persevering through charm, a positive attitude, and refusal to play the victim. Of course, a perfectly matched fitted skirt and capelet never hurts.
This book was published by Henery Press. To learn more about their books check out their website: henerypress.com.
What You Get When You Get Away
by Diane Vallere
You know those vacations we take to relax? The ones that are supposed to help us clear our brains and experience the luxury of not having to do anything? The getaways intended to establish quality time with our family and/or loved ones in front of us and not the people in our heads?
You probably know where I’m going with this.
A few years ago, I was on one of those vacations in Big Bear, California. The first day there, I went to the lake, parked in the lot, and walked to the end of a short pier. I very clearly remember staring out into the water, letting go of a buildup of deadlines and stresses and commitments, and I relaxed. And a few seconds later, while I was staring into the water, I thought, “What if I saw a face staring up at me from below the surface?” (I never said I was normal.)
These next memories have blurred a bit, and I no longer know the difference between what was really there and what I imagined could be there. An unzipped duffel bag abandoned on the pier, and an empty Starbucks cup laying on its side. An SUV in the parking lot with several parking tickets indicating that it hadn’t been moved for a few days. Well, if the person in the water was the owner, they couldn’t very well move their car now, could they? And keys? A set of car keys jammed between the slats on the pier. Maybe the person in the water knew he was about to die, and he knew it could be made to look like an accident, so he left his keys behind to be found to raise questions. Does it all make sense? No, but making sense of it was a job for later. (AKA “The Messy First Draft.”)
To recap: five minutes after arriving in the town of my quality-time-with-the-boyfriend vacation, I had an imaginary dead body and whole batch of questions. Questions were good. Questions, I could deal with later when I wrote the book and figured out the story.
I didn’t know which of my series this story would fit. At the time, I didn’t even know if there would be a fourth Madison Night book because I wasn’t sure I would find the right idea to propel her story forward. But while I questioned how I could logically get any of my characters to Big Bear Lake, I immediately knew Madison was the one character who I could get out of her usual setting. And while Big Bear Lake would be an odd destination for her (she normally operates out of Texas), Palm Springs would not. So I moved the entire concept there, and that was the basis for “The Decorator Who Knew Too Much.” I bought a notebook and scribbled down the bones of the idea. It was over a year before I wrote it.
I’m a firm believer in chasing the creative impulses when they strike. We all have so much on our collective plates that we need the excitement that comes with a fresh idea to convince us to add one more thing to our lists. I also believe in growing, stretching ourselves, and trying new things. In addition to the body in the river, that growth was also captured in the characters in “Decorator.”
Maybe getting out of town is more therapeutic than I thought!
To enter to win a copy of The Decorator Who Knew Too Much, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “decorator,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 6, 2017. US residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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