by Cynthia Chow
& Erika Chase
This week we have a review of the latest book in the fun Book Club mystery series by Erika Chase, Book Fair and Foul. We also have a fun guest post by Erika on avoiding the Jessica Fletcher Syndrome. At the end of this post are details on how to enter to win a copy of Book Fair & Foul, and you will also find a link to purchase the book where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Book Fair and Foul By Erika Chase
Review by Cynthia Chow
Members of the Ashton Corners Mystery Readers and Cheese Straws Society are thrilled to have Molly Mathews, owner of A Novel Plot, host the first Mystery Book Fair. Four mystery authors will stay at the Quilt Patch B&B, while local business owners provide promotional incentives to make their visit worthwhile.
However, as two of the authors feud over similarities in their protagonists, tensions are high and that’s before the arrival of publicist Ashley Dixon. Ashley was Lizzie Turner’s college nemesis, a pathologically ambitious and competitive woman. It seems Ashley hasn’t changed. When she puts the moves on Lizzie’s boyfriend, Police Chief Mark Dreyfus, it’s the last straw. Unfortunately, it’s also Ashley’s last bad decision. When Ashley’s body is discovered all the evidence points to Lizzie. The fact that Ashley is found in a funeral home display is both morbid and ironically appropriate.
To acquit herself, Lizzie looks into Ashley’s complicated life as well as the dysfunctional lives of the four authors. Lizzie is aided and abetted by her book club. Members not only have knowledge gained from reading mysteries but some have been murder suspects themselves. High on the list of possible killers are the authors, as battling egos demand attention. Who more than a mystery author would have the knowledge to not just plan a murder but to also frame Lizzie?
Book lovers will relish this series for its celebration of mystery novels. It takes a winking poke at mystery genre, as who wouldn’t want to read a mystery series about a circus trapeze aerialist? As a literary specialist, Lizzie also provides a unique glimpse into the education system and the challenges facing those with learning disabilities.
Southern sensibilities, hidden family ties, delicious food, and a book club that has become a supportive family, all highlight this lively mystery. Readers will also enjoy the suggested reading list at the end. This fourth in the series celebrates mysteries as much as it has fun playing with their conventions.
A Killer Read, Read and Buried and Cover Story are the first three books in the series.
Use this link to buy the book & a portion goes to help support KRL:
Avoiding the Jessica Fletcher Syndrome
By Erika Chase
One of the biggest challenges facing a cozy mystery author is trying to avoid the “Jessica Fletcher Syndrome.” You know all the ingredients – a small town setting, a community where people are known to each other, and a death count that staggers the imagination. One could wonder who is left alive in that small town?
But it goes beyond murdering off the townsfolk. One or more of them has got to be the suspect, right? And even if that person is proven innocent, the taint will often remain. There probably was some deep dark secret that came to light. The motive in other words and in many cases, more than one person had reason to want to do in the victim. How can friends and neighbors forget that someone they know was thought to be a killer? And how can that person, knowing that the word is out around town, face others in the grocery store, at the bridge game, in church?
The solution? Bring in some strangers. Let’s kill off the strangers or at the very least, make the stranger the main suspect and probable murderer. It allows the good citizens to sleep more soundly at night, not wondering who is next or which of their friends are homicidal maniacs.
This can also be tricky. With social media being what it is these days, word is likely to get out about this hot spot of dastardly deeds inflicted on strangers. There goes the tourist trade! Of course, the sleuth must remain the constant–the good guy. Oh sure, throw a heavy dose of suspicion her way every now and then. Nothing gets the amateur sleuth more involved in investigating a murder case than being accused of murder.
And that brings us to the other possible trap. Why does this sleuth keep getting involved, over and over again? And not getting paid for it! Usually, it’s a healthy dose of curiosity tossed in with the need to clear a friend of a murder rap. There are pitfalls involved with this though, especially if the sleuth is romantically involved with a cop. Of course, as professionals, the police will most definitely frown on any involvement by amateur sleuths, but we know this just adds to the determination of that sleuth.
These are among the challenges I face each time I start to write a new book in the Ashton Corners Book Club Mysteries. The fourth, Book Fair and Foul, is now out with book #5 on its way to the editor shortly. In each book, there’s a body (sometimes more) found in Ashton Corners, AL. Now this isn’t a large town by any means, so in order to keep the population from floundering, I have used the odd stranger in that role.
Unfortunately, fingers must be pointed at the townspeople and also at book club members, in order to get our heroine, Lizzie Turner involved. And those same members can be counted on to aid and abet her at every turn. And, of course, she’s in love with the Police Chief, who possesses a great deal of patience.
This time around, there are four mystery authors along with their publicist visiting Ashton Corners for a book fair. That means panels, signings, readings and of course, murder!
I’ve discovered the best way around the Jessica Fletcher Syndrome is to hope for the best–which readers will willingly and with great anticipation, be prepared to suspend some amount of disbelief. And just enjoy the read!
To enter to win a copy of Book Fair & Foul, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Fair,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 16, 2014. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.