by Kathleen Costa
This week we have a review of Something Wicked By David Housewright, along with an interesting interview with David. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Something Wicked: A Mac McKenzie novel By David Housewright
Review by Kathleen Costa
It seems trouble in its many forms came all at once. COVID-19 spread like wildfire across the planet. Nina Truhler and Rushmore McKenzie’s planned honeymoon to Italy was scrapped. The U.S. shut everything down. Nina’s Jazz Club, Rickie’s, neared bankruptcy. McKenzie got shot. Yes, in all its forms, trouble came. But, now, travel is opening up, the club is recovering, and Mac is healing. So, how ‘bout a vacation? How ‘bout Redding Castle on Lake Anpetuwi near the border between Minnesota and South Dakota…smooth, Nina, smooth!
Something Wicked Earns 5/5 Locked Doors…Engaging & Clever!
Nina had earlier received a frantic phone call from friend and former employee Jenness Crawford, “My grandmother was murdered…I know it.” She had limited details and was frustrated that the police had limited interest. Over a year ago, Jen left Nina’s Jazz Club to work for her octogenarian Grandma Tess at the family’s hotel and resort, Redding Castle. She’d been helping turn things around, and after her grandmother’s unexpected “she woke up dead” a month ago, Jen took over management. Her excitement greeting Nina and McKenzie revealed the truth of this so-called vacation. “Thank you so much for agreeing to help me.” Mac realizes he’s been ambushed.
Nina had been very demanding that McKenzie retire from his “semi-professional” investigating after his nearly fatal injury when doing a favor for a friend, so setting him up to do a favor for her friend seemed a cheat. But, after meeting the Redding family, they learn the grandmother changed her mind about selling the property to developers, yet now she’s gone, her children, the “Sibs,” are set on reaping the projected millions. Seeing interesting behaviors and hearing odd remarks does brings into question whether or not any of them resorted to killing the grandmother in order to inherit control over the resort. Or could Tess’s success stopping a rezoning application for a right-wing, so-called religious group be a motive? Don’t trust coincidences!
Wickedly Good! David Housewright quickly made me a fan of his Mac McKenzie series with this nineteenth book. I worried starting the series so far into it that I’d have too many questions about character background and previous incidents, but no worries. Everything necessary was provided, like many standalones, and I was totally engaged with the clever, complex drama with plenty of family conflicts and angst over a white separatist/supremacist group, entertained by the multi-generational characters, and very satisfied by the shocking conclusion with its right amount of perilous predicaments. Housewright’s writing style was entertaining with sensory-laden descriptions, diverse personalities, and informative banter including fascinating facts about historical events and figures and Norse mythology, discussions related to several recent headlines, and debates on policing, white supremacists, and religious freedoms to add the realism I demand. The “Just So You Know” wrap up provides plenty of closure. Using a first-person narrative from McKenzie’s perspective with engaging ideas, inner thoughts and witty repartee was well-developed, but different since I usually read books with female leads; I kept seeing in my mind’s eye a woman, but I sorted that out by picturing my favorite heartthrob. Oooh, yeah! The pandemic was not ignored, instead it was used to provide a time frame and realism and to show its effects when address various mind sets. Very engaging. Don’t miss this one. Candidate for one of my top 2022 reads!
Just Saying! No matter how brief the discussion and despite it not being the murder weapon, I drooled over the words Sticky Toffee pudding, so…including the recipe seems a no brainer. Why can’t we “steal” that recipe?
Be a Big David Housewright Fan!
Edgar Award-winning author David Housewright pens crime novels with entertaining and clever male leads. This Mac McKenzie series, set in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, follows ex-St. Paul cop Rushmore McKenzie as he uses his investigative skills. His Holland Taylor series is also set in the Minneapolis area following PI Taylor.
Interview with David Housewright:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
DAVID: I’ve always been writing. In fact, I invented self-publishing when I was twelve-years-old. You’re welcome. What happened, my parents gave me a printing press for my birthday – don’t ask me why. I would punch the words out one letter at a time on tape, and then stick the tape on a drum. I would ink the drum and hand-crank the sheets out one at a time. I started a newspaper – Neighborhood News – that I sold door-to-door for like a dime. I also wrote and printed my first book – Swinging Danger – about a kid who built a rope swing, what we used to call a Tarzan swing, despite family and friends telling him that he would fall and break his neck. He did fall, and he broke his wrist and like all first novels, it was highly autobiographical.
KRL: When did your first novel come out, what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?
DAVID: My first book published by a traditional house was called Penance. It was never meant to be a mystery. It was supposed to be a novel about political corruption – I was channeling Gore Vidal in those days. It occurred to me as I was plotting it out, though, that if I threw a few dead bodies on the floor, it would make a terrific crime novel. Apparently, the Mystery Writers of American agreed because it gave me the Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 1996.
KRL: Oh wow! Have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not, what else have you written?
DAVID: I always wanted to write books. Always. I worked in newspapers, including the Minneapolis Tribune, and later in advertising. I even owned my own agency – Gerber/Housewright – doing work for Federal Express and Jim Beam. I had attempted to write several novels during those years, starting when I was first graduated from college. They had titles like Something Happened and In Search of Things – that’s how bad they were. Finally, when I was pushing forty, I decided if I was going to do this, now was the time, and I began working on Penance. In those days, I was reading four or five crime novels for every non-crime novel, so I was deeply immersed in the conventions of the mystery, which is why Penance became a mystery, even though that was not my original intention. I like to tell people that I didn’t choose mysteries, mysteries chose me.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to experience from your work?
DAVID: I think most mysteries, hell, most books, are what Graham Greene called “entertainments” and there’s a lot to be said for that. Except, I believe, that the best books, certainly the best mysteries, are about more than whodunit; they’re about more than who killed Mr. Body in the library with a candlestick. When I start working on a book, my first question isn’t what happened? It’s what is it about? What’s the point?
KRL: What is your ideal time to write?
DAVID: I tend to write when my spirit moves me. In the beginning, I might put in an hour, an hour-and-a-half, and then jump up and remind myself that golf doesn’t play itself. The more I get into the book, though, the more time I put in. Toward the end, I’ll start working at eight in the morning and then at eight at night I’ll look at my watch and wonder “Shouldn’t someone have fed me by now?”
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?
DAVID: In the beginning of my career, I used to outline quite extensively, but that was when I was creative director at my own advertising agency and writing time was at a premium. Because of the outline, when I did have the time to write, I always knew where I was; I never stared at the screen and wonder “What were you thinking?” I still used outlines long after I sold my agency to my partner and started writing more or less full time, only now they’re much looser and much more fluid. However, I ALWAYS know how the book is going to end before I begin.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
DAVID: It took my agent and me a full year to find a publisher. In fact, I was rejected by the finest publishing houses in the world! Finally, I landed at a small press in Vermont called Countryman Press (which was later bought by W.W. Norton – long story), and that was the year I won the Edgar. Does that mean all those other publishing houses were morons? Why yes, yes it does!
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
DAVID: A woman approached me at an event just a couple of weeks ago. She had written a book and was hoping that I would read it and give her a quote for her dust jacket. I asked her what kind of book it was. A mystery, she said. What kind of mystery – hard-boiled, cozy, a procedural? She didn’t know what I was talking about. What kinds of books do you read? I asked. Turned out she didn’t have time to read books, including my stuff. A friend had told her that I was “a famous writer from Minnesota” and that’s why she had come to me. I declined her request. This made her very angry. She had spent all of four weeks writing that book! Which leads us to self-publishing, which is a long discussion for another time.
KRL: What are your future writing goals?
DAVID: Just to keep doing it.
KRL: Who are your writing heroes?
DAVID: There are the usual suspects – Hammett, Chandler, MacDonald, Parker, James M. Cain, Lawrence Block, Elmore Leonard. But E.L. Doctorow, Kurt Vonnegut, Dickens, Fitzgerald, and Isaac Asimov are also on the list. Plus, there’s this underrated guy that most of us only read in college that you might have heard of named Shakespeare.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
DAVID: As much as I need to write an honest book. I like to tell students that it’s much easier to write fiction when you know all the facts.
KRL: What do you like to read?
DAVID: I mentioned earlier that I used to ready five mysteries for every non-mystery. That was then. These days it’s more one-to-one. I’m just as likely to read Louise Erdrich as I am to read William Kent Krueger. In fact, most of the mysteries I read these days are by friends of mine.
KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?
DAVID: I watch very little episodic TV and few movies. When I’m not watching sports (a lot) or news (not so much these days), I’m probably reading a book.
KRL: Have you any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
DAVID: Read, and I mean read everything! If you wanted to be a painter, you’d start by looking at other artists paintings. If you wanted to write music, you’d start by listening to other musicians. Read.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
DAVID: I play hockey and I’m on a curling team. I tell that to people here in Minnesota and they shrug and say, “Yeah, so?” I tell people that in New York or California or just about anywhere else and they look at me like I’m from another planet.
DAVID: I’m a cat person.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook? Instagram?
DAVID: Yes, I have all of these. It’s pretty much necessary in this business.
To enter to win a copy of Something Wicked, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “wicked,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 4, 2022. US only, and must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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