by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of a fun new coffee mystery, Death by Vanilla Latte by Alex Erickson. We also have an interesting interview with Alex. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Death by Vanilla Latte. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Death by Vanilla Latte Bookstore Cafe Mystery by Alex Erickson
Review by Sandra Murphy
It seems secrets have been kept. Everyone at Death by Coffee, Krissy Hancock’s coffee shop/bookstore (named after a mystery book by Krissy’s dad, James Hancock), knew he was coming for a book signing. Everyone but his own daughter that is. No one is more surprised than his biggest fan, Rita Jablonski. For a moment, it looked like she’d faint from sheer joy at being near her writing hero.
Rita is determined to make the book signing the biggest thing to hit town, ever. To encourage attendance, she’s promised that James will read books written by two writer’s groups. She didn’t consult anyone before making that promise. Krissy is none too happy with the way Rita latches onto James, literally. He’s here to visit Krissy, not a nut job like Rita who has a cardboard cutout of James in her bedroom—ick!
In turn, James volunteers Rick to read manuscripts for possible representation. Rick is not at all happy with that idea. However, Rick is sure Krissy must have the same talent as James and suggests she drop by his room and show him what she’s got—not that there’s much innuendo in that comment!
James finds out Rick’s hit on Krissy and confronts him about it in a loud argument. Rick’s body is found the next morning and James jumps to the top of the suspect list. Encouraged (read pushed) by Rita, Krissy tries to find out what really happened. The suspect pool is much larger than first thought since most of the writers managed to drop by to persuade Rick that they had written the next blockbuster best seller. Rick’s assistant takes advantage of the opportunity to declare himself an agent. His timing is pretty suspicious.
Krissy is impulsive and puts herself into situations she shouldn’t. So far, she’s also managed to get herself out of them. Luckily, she has great help in the coffee shop/bookstore, so she can investigate. It’s a tossup whether she’s rescuing her dad from a possible murder conviction or from Rita’s firm grip.
Side characters each get some time on the page as Krissy tracks down clues. It was a nice contrast for her to see her dad as an author as well as her father during this visit. The mystery was a good one with enough suspects and clues to keep readers guessing.
This is the fourth book in the Bookstore Cafe Mystery series. Jump in anywhere and be prepared to help Krissy decipher clues. Duck when Rita shows up!
Interview with Alex Erickson:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Alex: Ever since I can remember. Writing has always been a big part of my life.
KRL: When did your first novel come out?
Alex: I’m going to cheat a little here and go with the first Alex Erickson book. The first Bookstore Café mystery came out in 2015.
KRL: What was it called?
Alex: Death by Coffee.
KRL: Can you tell us a little about it?
Alex: Krissy Hancock moves to a small town to open a bookstore café with her best friend. Someone dies after drinking coffee. She investigates! It’s a mystery meant to be fun, quick, and easily digested.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense?
Alex: Not always. I enjoy a lot of different types of books, and hope to someday experiment with all the genres in my writing. There’s so many stories that can be told, and I want to get to them all.
KRL: If not what else have you written?
Alex: I’ve written all kinds of stories in my lifetime, and expect to do many more. I’ve done urban fantasy, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, thriller, horror, just to name a few. I’ve only published the cozies and the urban fantasy series (under another name!) I hope to expand on that someday.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Alex: Pine Hills isn’t a real place. I decided I wanted a small town that is a combination of a few places I know. I wanted a place I could mold how I wanted, that still felt real in some ways, a little different in others. The characters came to me as I was writing, evolving from basic sketches into real people, at least in my mind. I tend to do what feels right when it comes to characters, and really don’t choose them so much as they choose me. The same often goes for locations, like the bookstore café. They evolve and emerge from the page, as if they’d always been there and I’m just discovering them.
KRL: Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Alex: We’re going right back to Pine Hills in Death by Vanilla Latte, and revisiting Krissy and the gang as they try to solve yet another murder in the small town. This time, Krissy has to deal with her dad, acclaimed mystery writer, James Hancock, being in town. You get her high-strung, often blunt manner, with his more laid back, friendly way of doing things. It’s quite the contrast, yet they both have the same urge to go out and solve the case, even if it means putting themselves at risk.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Alex: It’s a little of both, I suppose. I want the reader to be entertained, of course. In the case of the Bookstore Café mysteries, I want the reader to have fun and to relax. But there’s always going to be sections where I hope the reader takes something away from it. Like, treating people with respect, no matter their beliefs or lifestyles. There are all sorts of different people in Pine Hills, and they often all don’t get along, but at the end of the day, they do pull together as a community.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Alex: I prefer to follow a schedule since it keeps me from putting writing off to do other things. I get to work right after breakfast and continue until lunchtime. I rarely deviate from that.
KRL: Do you outline?
Alex: Always. I start with a bunch of notes compiled over a few months or so. Then, I take those notes, choose what works, discarding what doesn’t, and then start a chapter by chapter outline. I don’t always follow it perfectly, but for the most part, the main story remains intact throughout the process. If something doesn’t work, or if I come up with something better, I have no problem making the change, even if it means adjusting a good portion of the outline. I let the story take me where it wants to go, using the outline as a guide, rather than a set of hard rules.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Alex: Right now, I’m writing right when I want to be. It allows me to get all my work done and then take the rest of the day to do everything else without worrying about whether or not I’ll find time during the evening to write. A lot can happen during a day, so best get it out before it does!
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Alex: It took time, as all things do, but I don’t think I ever felt it to be too difficult. I wrote some really bad novels at first as I was learning what to do and what not to do. I realized early on those early novels weren’t the best, and worked to improve. I’m also pretty stubborn, so giving up was never an option.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Alex: To keep writing and explore multiple genres. I don’t plan on stopping for as long as I can still write.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Alex: Stephen King, Jim Butcher, Robert Jordan, Joe Abercrombie, Kathy Reichs, Brandon Sanderson, just to name a few. I read so many books, from so many authors, it’s hard to narrow down, but these are the ones who have inspired me the most.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Alex: It depends on the book, really. For the Bookstore Café mysteries, there isn’t a ton I need to do. I might need to look up allergies, or the way something works, just to make it a little more genuine, but since the location is my own, the people, and so on, I really only need to focus on details that would be important to the location or plot.
KRL: What do you read?
Alex: Anything and everything. I’ll go from a dark horror, to a light romance, straight into a bloody fantasy, before drifting into a comical cozy. I like to mix it up as much as possible so I don’t get stuck in a reading rut. And the more I read, the more I learn, which in turn, allows me to add more depth to my own stories.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Alex: I really enjoy watching shows like The Expanse and The Magicians on cable television. But I tend to watch shows on Netflix more than I do on the networks. I’ve really taken to foreign shows, like The Returned, Case, and Glitch. I recently finished watching a crime show, Bordertown, which I greatly enjoyed.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Alex: Be persistent. It’s easy to give up. Don’t. Just keep writing and always, always, always, look for ways to improve.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Alex: I’m a big gamer. I’m one of those people who has to always be doing something, and games give me a way to pass the time and keep my brain engaged. TV is okay, but I start to fidget after an hour or so. Plus, since I tend to be such a private person, getting online to play with friends allows me to be somewhat social. If I’m not working or reading, I can usually be found in a game somewhere.
KRL: Social media?
Alex: I don’t tend to post much on social media, but I do answer any messages, posts, or emails sent my way!
To enter to win a copy of Death by Vanilla Latte, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “latte,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 15, 2017. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
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