by Cynthia Chow
& Larissa Reinhart
This week we have a review of 18 Caliber, Larissa Reinhart’s latest Maizie Albright mystery. We also have a very fun guest post by Larissa. Details at the end of the post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of the book and a link to order it from Amazon.
18 Caliber: Maizie Albright Star Detective #6 by Larissa Reinhart
Review by Cynthia Chow
After child actress-turned reality star Maizie Albright crashed and burned through rehab and landed in handcuffs, she was given the choice of removing herself from the entertainment business entirely or going straight to jail. Maizie attempted to start over in Black Pine, Georgia, home of her newly discovered father and apprenticing under Private Detective Wyatt Nash. She once played the role of Julia Pinkerton, Teen Detective, but not she’s trying to make it official. Her momager Vicki Albright wasn’t about to let her meal ticket stray too far away, though, descending upon them to buy out Nash’s struggling Nash Security Solutions and establish Albright Security Solutions. While it frees Nash from the grasp of his ex-wife, it also places them firmly under the control of Maizie’s mother, who has them setting up DIY security systems for her celebrity connections.
This also has Maizie dangerously close to violating her probation, as Vicki has them installing cameras on the set of Unlucky 18, a martial arts movie being filmed in Black Pine and with Chinese backing. After accidentally letting a suspicious stalker/ex of the leading actress slip away, Maizie guiltily allows herself to further be pulled into shenanigans by her mother, the Always Albright Celebrity Management owner intent on protecting and promoting rising star Lili Liang, lead actress on a Visa from China. While Maizie can’t help but feel a little put out to see her mother protectively coddling what is essentially Maizie’s replacement, it’s Vicki’s disturbing maternal protectiveness over her new $10,000 Arowana dragon fish Charles who really has Maizie feeling green. Their mother-daughter relationship has always been the epitome of dysfunction, with Maizie continually seeking approval and making excuses from her velociraptor mother.
When Lili’s martial arts Shifu Master Xiang Xi goes missing, Vickie orders Nash and Maizie to track him down without alerting the police or raising any flags about defecting. Maizie’s two besties at LA Hair warn her away from the poisonous affect her mother will have on her and Nash’s future, but Maizie finds severing ties not to be easy. Moving back in with her father hasn’t helped matters, as Boomer Spayberry warns her away not just from his ex-wife but from Nash as well. This makes the backstabbiness of the movie business seem like a breeze, although it has Nash and Maizie tracking down leads to a Florida RV park, fishing bullets out of a fish tank, and interrogating Lili’s jealous suitors. At least the arrival of substitute Master Kevin Yuan reunites Maizie with her former Shifu and father substitute, until a rather shocking discovery creeps her out while also offering hope for the future.
This series excels at highlighting the fascinating and hilarious insanity that ensues within the entertainment business. The timely topic of China’s influence in filmmaking adds layers of intrigue, especially as Hollywood sees it as a savior with an audience of billions. Vicki’s presence had previously been something of a ominous shadow looming over Maizie’s life, and now that she has descended full-force in Black Pine it makes her control all the more obvious. While it’s hard to see Maizie so down beaten and willing to apologize for Vicki’s financial skimming and manipulations, it leads to the rewarding experience of seeing Maizie grow more assertive and stronger. It’s possible Vicki may have a heart as well, although the future of Nash Security promises to be more complicated and just as interesting. Readers should eagerly anticipate the next of this series full of hilarious banter, wry observations, and tantalizing hints of romance.
How to Write a Mystery Series About an Ex-Celebrity Becoming a Private Investigator
By Larissa Reinhart
One question I’m often asked is how I go about writing my mystery series. I have three — Maizie Albright Star Detective, Cherry Tucker Mysteries, and Finley Goodhart Crime Capers — but my most recent release has been with the Maizie Albright series. Therefore, I have distilled how I write the Maizie Albright series into manageable steps, so you, too, can write a series about a child star who grows up, has a tabloid-worthy meltdown, and is sent to live with her dad in Georgia to start her life over.
Naturally, after achieving fame on a hit tv show as a teen detective, she’ll want to become a private investigator. You’ll name her Maizie Albright. Why? Tell everyone it had a nice ring. (Also, you can’t remember why that name popped in your head.)
Before writing you’ll need to do research. Begin by googling “horrible celebrity parents.” You might need tissues. You also might need a stiff drink. After reading this unfortunately copious subject, you’ll shudder, hug your children, and swear off E! forever.
Take those feelings of anger and disgust and create your heroine’s manager, Vicki Albright. Also, make her your heroine’s mother. Make Vicki more diabolical than the Lohans, Colemans, and Coogans combined. It might make you feel icky but get over yourself. You’re just a writer, not God.
You’ll begin to worry about your heroine, Maizie Albright, and you must remind yourself she is not real. She can’t sue for independence or become estranged from the mother because Vicki is a great antagonist and you need her around.
Your conscience wants your heroine to ditch the mother. Don’t listen to your conscience. Your conscience has no place at the writing table. Scheming mothers are delicious antagonists. Also, a diabolical ex-manager/still-mother is too much fun to write.
Begin to research “clothes and products worn by celebrities.” Back out of that prodigious rabbit hole and keep a browser tab open on Barney’s while writing. Much simpler. Especially since your idea of high fashion is a clean t-shirt and jeans.
Open another tab and look up “how to become a private investigator in Georgia.” Takes two years of apprenticing to a real investigator? Create another character, a Southern Sam Spade who’s broke, divorced, and has an office above his buddy ex-cop’s donut shop. Anoint him with a cool name like Wyatt Nash and give him Paul Newman-blue eyes, a scar on his chin, and extra ab muscles. He’ll look scary until he smiles, and your heroine won’t have a chance but fall for him.
Speaking of a PI office above a donut shop, buy donuts. Tell yourself it’s for research.
Regret buying donuts.
Lament creating a donut shop more than the donuts you consumed because every time you describe the scent of donuts permeating the PI office, it makes you hungry.
Gain ten pounds writing the first book. Luckily, you’ll move to Japan and can walk it off, but you’ll move back in time to write the third book in the series and you’ll gain it all back. Why didn’t you put the PI business above an insurance office or tire shop? Note that for future novels.
By the sixth book, you try to move the office, but it’s too late. The characters keep returning to the donut shop office because “they miss it.”
Make a mental note to stop writing books set in Georgia with characters who like to eat.
Realize by the sixth book, the antagonist’s ego has grown to such mammoth proportions, she’s on track to completely ruin the heroine and her (smexy) PI boss’s lives. With no lives, it’s hard to write them into new books. It’s time to knock the stage-monster-mother down a peg or two. You rub your hands together gleefully. It’s payback for all those awful celebrity parents you wanted to slap in your early research days.
Make Vicki the villain! No, the victim! No, a suspect! All three!
Wait a minute. This book was supposed to use an idea you had about a Chinese actor.
And you should consider your heroine’s character arc. Would she want to protect her mother or throw her to the wolves?
Take a nap, shower, or drive because you get all your best ideas when you can’t write them down and will most likely forget them.
Write a synopsis for a mystery set in Georgia with Chinese actors, a maniacal celebrity manager, and an ex-child star who is intent on becoming a PI despite the odds of having a maniacal ex-manager/still-mother.
Open one browser tab to Barney’s, another on “doorbell security cameras,” a third on dragonfish, and another for 18-caliber bullets.
You’re ready to write. Good luck!??
To enter to win an ebook copy of 18 Caliber, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “caliber,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 16, 2020. U.S. residents only and you 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. One of Larissa’s books is featured in a past episode. A new episode goes up next 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.