by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of the latest mystery by Carolyn Haines, along with an interesting interview with Carolyn. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Game of Bones. There is also a link to purchase it Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
Game of Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney series by Carolyn Haines
Review by Sandra Murphy
Sarah Booth Delaney and her PI partner Tinkie live and work in Sunflower County, Mississippi. Tinkie’s married; Sarah Booth is still single although involved with Coleman, the sheriff. Sarah Booth also has her own personal ghost, Jitty, who pushes, prods, goads, and nags about Sarah Booth’s need to provide a Delaney heir.
There’s a huge mound outside town but no one ever thought much about it until now. It’s a Native American burial ground and archeologists are in the midst of a dig led by two groups, each with their own leader and team of student workers. The students are after better grades due to their internship work, and the archeologists are interested in cheap labor.
When a dead body of the current kind is found ritualistically killed, there could be a lot of suspects since there was no love lost there. However, the method says someone had to be very strong or know how to work heavy equipment to arrange the body. It would seem one of the archeologists fits the bill. No dummy, he hires Sarah Booth and Tinkie to prove his innocence.
Usually, it’s a matter of clearing one person, moving to the next, and the most likely and last standing is the killer. In this case, Sarah Booth and Tinkie are confounded by superstition, lies, and omissions and have to interrogate suspects more than once to find out what really happened, who was where and when, just to narrow the suspect list.
This is book twenty in the series. Jitty is as insistent as ever about an heir, Sarah Booth a bit more open to the idea now that Coleman is in the picture. Tinkie is all Southern Daddy’s Girl—able to wrap a man around her little finger to get her way and equally capable of giving him The Look that says Do Not Mess With Me Today. Luckily, most Southern men recognize that look, having seen their mamas use it. I’m always happy to see Sarah Booth and Tinkie include their dogs (and cat) in the investigations. They provide comic relief at times and protection, always. This is a series you’ll want to read from the first but feel free to jump in anywhere.
Haines has also written eleven novels, one non-fiction book, and two books as R. B. Chesterton.
Interview with Carolyn Haines:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Carolyn: I started out in the newspaper business and had my first story published when I was 12. (My parents were both journalists, so I had a little help.) I started writing fiction when I was in college. Short stories. I grew up reading and loving the short stories. When I was older, I loved stories in the Saturday Evening Post, the Atlantic, Esquire.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? A little about it?
Carolyn: The first book I published was A Deadly Breed with Harlequin Intrigue. It was a mystery with horses. I’ve always been addicted to mysteries and I was lucky that I had a story that would fit in the Intrigue line. It came out in 1988. I was so very fortunate to have Tahti Carter as my editor at Intrigue. She taught me so many things with her astute editing.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not, what else have you written?
Carolyn: I have written general fiction, gothics, horror, short fiction, non-fiction, humor. But mysteries are home for me. I love reading them and writing them.
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.
Carolyn: Game of Bones is the 20th book in the Sarah Booth Delaney series. I’ve been writing about Sarah Booth, Tinkie, Cece, Coleman, Millie and the critters for over two decades now. They are my family in many ways. The books are set in the fictional town of Zinnia, MS in the Mississippi Delta, a place I’ve never lived. Mississippi is a big state, and there are different regions. I grew up in the southern part, the Coastal Region. It’s so different from the Delta, but I’ve always loved the blues and the feel of the Delta area. It’s a place of very stark contrasts. One of my first visits there was as a journalist doing a story on the state penitentiary, Parchman. Twenty-two thousand acres of cotton, it’s an isolated place. I really didn’t choose this setting -the characters chose it and took me there! I just followed along.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Carolyn: I hope my books are entertaining. First and foremost, if readers don’t enjoy them it doesn’t matter what else I include, they won’t read them. I hope readers also take away compassion for animals and all humans, a real sense of place and how that isn’t easy for those of us who come from areas with conflicted pasts. I hope my books make people curious about some of the topics and settings and characters. I love local legends and I use a lot of them.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Carolyn: I’m writing three different series and running a small publishing company, so I have to make every minute count. I write for several hours in the morning and again in the afternoon. I don’t write at night because my brain isn’t that sharp after dark.
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?
Carolyn: I do outline. I’m a big believer in knowing your turning points, but also leaving a lot of latitude for characters who take over the story and move in a different direction than I’d originally planned. I need that outline, especially in a mystery, to be sure I give the reader a good, twisty ride.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Carolyn: The mornings are best. I’m smarter in the mornings.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Carolyn: I had several false starts, and I worked hard to have books to submit to agents and editors. This is a very, very hard business. I don’t know a single writer who is now published who hasn’t worked through rejection and despair numerous times.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Carolyn: I did have a romantic mystery rejected because the editor said the heroine seemed to like the horse in the story better than the hero.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Carolyn: I surprised my brother on his birthday at a signing by hiring a professional wrestler to pin him. I was going to give him a birthday spanking, but I relented.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Carolyn: I have a new 3-book contract for Sarah Booth books and I am thrilled. I also am working on the 4th Pluto’s Snitch book which I hope to see published in October. And the Trouble, black cat detective series, is really picking up a following. The 10th book in this standalone series will publish in July, Trouble in Action, by Susan Y. Tanner. I just need more time in the day.
KRL: I hear you on that one!
Carolyn: James Lee Burke. The man’s use of language makes me want to cry it’s so beautiful. I have so many friends in the business I don’t want to single out the great mystery authors I know. I read a lot of older books, especially spooky stories. That’s my relaxation.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Carolyn: Depends on the story. I love to visit my settings if I can. I do a ton of internet research, and I have been known to call people and interview them about the past or an incident or a story they knew. As I said, I love legends. I try really hard to get the history correct in the Pluto’s Snitch books, which are set in 1920s. I’ve also put together a terrific band of first readers who know a lot of amazing things. They are such a benefit. And I have a close critique group and we read for each other. Invaluable.
KRL: What do you read?
Carolyn: Mostly mysteries, but I like to read the darker things, and I love horror. I also love short fiction. My reading time is very limited, and sometimes a short story is the perfect-sized bite.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Carolyn: Right now, Game of Thrones. It’s funny because I’m not necessarily a fantasy reader, but this show is just so well done. I was hooked for a while on a Finnish crime series called Borderland. I’m part Finnish/Swedish and the scenery in that show was so intriguing.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Carolyn: You have to learn to read critically. When I taught the fiction writing classes at a major university in Alabama, I taught students how to deconstruct a story to see the bones, to see how it was strongly put together. It’s not an easy thing to teach, but it’s critical to understand plot and structure and how those support the story. There are plenty of on-line classes now and also conventions where the elements of fiction are taught. Beginning writers really need to learn the elements of fiction. Writers are right-brained people with imagination, but you have to develop that left-brain analytical side. Forward plot movement is what keeps the reader turning the page.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Carolyn: I wish I had more time to read. I wish I had more time to do a lot of things. Hummmm…I wish I had magic!
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Carolyn: I was almost kicked out of grammar school when I was 9. My good friend and I decided to answer ALL the questions on the California Achievement Test wrong (we were protesting the loss of our recess for the test). I answered wrong, but she answered correctly. I made such a low score I was classified as uneducable. My mama tore my bottom up! She had to take me to a private counselor to retake the test and it cost money. I was in hot water for weeks, but I scored okay on the re-take and got back into school. To this day, I still protest things that I think are wrong. I have no problem joining a picket line for a cause I believe in such as animal rights.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Game of Bones, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “game,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 1, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. 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 goes up next week.
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