by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of another food mystery, Against the Claw by Shari Randall, and an interesting interview with Shari! Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Against the Claw along with a link to purchase the book from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
Against the Claw: A Lobster Shack Mystery by Shari Randall
Review by Cynthia Chow
Until her broken ankle heals and she can return to her soloist position with the New England Ballet Theater, Allie Larkin is recuperating and helping out with her aunt’s Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack in Mystic Bay. Although business is already booming for the kitschy, mermaidabilia lobster restaurant, Aunt Gully enthusiastically jumps at the chance to be the caterer for Stellene Lupo’s annual Fourth of July party. The local celebrity is the owner of a New York modeling agency, and Aunt Gully can’t resist the opportunity to mingle and network on Stellene’s Harmony Harbor estate. Even Allie’s business-minded sister Lorel can’t resist the chance to ogle at the celebrities, and Allie is willing to do anything to distract her sister from her bad boy boyfriend. The only cloud looming over what should be a spectacular event is the discovery of a young woman’s body in a lobster trap, unidentifiable, and the victim of a drug overdose.
Accustomed to the stage, Allie is game to donning a glittery shell bra and mermaid skirt in order to serve hors d’oeuvres; especially if it means getting up close and personal with megastar singer Eden and her smolderingly hot guitar player. It seems like a dream come true when the musical icon asks the sisters to stay with her on Stellene’s yacht, but it becomes a nightmare when things goes dreadfully wrong during the night. Being rich and famous doesn’t mean that they don’t have the same problems as “normal” people, but it does mean that they have the resources to bury their secrets and stop anyone in their way. Being hampered with an orthopedic boot isn’t going to slow Allie down one second, whether it’s performing in Mystic Bay’s Broadway by the Bay in an aerial harness or finding justice for the poor woman Allie can’t forget.
Plots and clues are sprinkled throughout this delightfully atmospheric mystery, which contrasts the mouth-watering Lobster Shack meals with the exclusive Harmony Harbor estate. Both Allie and her best friend Verity are tempted by a chiseled musician, but getting to know the lifestyles of rich and famous may be deadly. With the local harbor police proving less than reliable, Allie does her best to maneuver her way through local gossip and cloistered wealthy families, all while performing an experimental musical play sure to bring the down the house. Allie’s good humor while dealing with a career-ending injury and adjusting back to life in a small coastal town makes her an extremely genial and admirable heroine. Readers will be invested in seeing whether she returns to her life back in New York City, or finds herself at home with the quirky, tourist and fishing-centric town. The action and intrigue builds to levels that will have readers more than ready of the next installment in this suspenseful and very entertaining novel.
Interview Shari Randall:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Shari: A very long time. My parents unearthed a short story I wrote when I was in second grade. The plot line involved a detective foiling a nefarious scheme to cheat at a car race and I have no idea where that plotline came from!
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Shari: Curses, Boiled Again! came out in January 2018. It’s about an injured dancer named Allegra, “Allie” Larkin who works in her Aunt Gully’s Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack while she recovers. At the Best Lobster Roll competition at their village Food Festival, the judges become ill and one dies. Aunt Gully’s lobster roll is on the scene and she is under suspicion. Allie starts digging to discover a way to help her aunt and uncovers long buried secrets that some people will kill to keep hidden.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not, what else have you written?
Shari: I was a newspaper features writer years ago and have done some freelance editorial work, but mostly I wrote for myself. My husband served in the Coast Guard and traveled a lot while I was home with two small children. At night I wrote short stories about a model who becomes a PI – total escapism! One of those stories became my first fiction publication, “Keep It Simple” in Chesapeake Crimes: This Job Is Murder.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Shari: The books are set in Mystic Bay, Connecticut – it’s based on Mystic, CT, one of the prettiest shoreline towns in New England. My publisher wanted a series set in a lobster shack and there I was living near a little town with some of the best lobster shacks in America. It was kismet!
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Shari: Murder, She Wrote was one of my favorite shows and I wanted to channel that entertaining combination of New England setting, brisk storytelling, and fun characters. I love a mystery with a great puzzle, plus I wanted humor and some thrilling escapes for my main character. I’ve had readers tell me they love the characters because of their resilience. My two main characters, Allie and her Aunt Gully, have both had big life changes: Allie’s injury and Aunt Gully is starting a business after the death of her husband of many years. Themes that I didn’t expect have emerged from the events of the story.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Shari: I’m the least disciplined person I know. I have to put myself in “jail,” usually at the library, so I won’t get distracted by the beautiful day or all the chores I have to do. I wrote a good chunk of my second book in a study carrel at the Groton Public Library in Groton, CT. I couldn’t even work in the Mystic-Noank Library because it has such stunning views. It begs you to go outside!
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?
Shari: I wish I were an outliner – it eliminates some of the panic of getting to page 80 and thinking, now what? My process is writing in scenes. I’ve heard that some writers are plotters, some are “pantsers” – writing by the seat of their pants – and some are puzzlers, writing pieces and then fitting them together. It was reassuring to learn that there’s a name for what I do.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Shari: I like to write after lunch, but I also know that if I stay in my pajamas and start writing as soon as I get up, that’s the most productive time for me, but doing this guarantees that the UPS guy will knock on the door. Every. Single. Time.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Shari: I have a story that I’m still querying, after ten years. Publishing is a crazy business.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Shari: I’ll just mention that every time I’ve gotten a call from my agent – telling me of my publishing deal or that the audio rights for the books were sold – I’ve been at the casino with my 87-year-old mom. Hard to talk with the noise of all the slot machines.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Shari: The best was when an old friend I haven’t seen since high school came to my first signing. The worst/best was when I had a signing at Malice for a short story I’d done for a Sisters in Crime anthology. I sat there for an hour as lines formed on both sides of me for popular authors. The fans very carefully read my name tag and averted their eyes. An author friend, GM Malliet, saw me and asked me to sign her anthology. I’ll always be grateful to her for rescuing me!
KRL: Future writing goals?
Shari: I have two other series I’d like to work on. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Also, I’d love to see my series become a television show.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Shari: I admire writers who, despite day jobs and noisy children, keep their writing goal in sight and write every day, finding stolen moments to get the work done. I think I may have just described Mary Higgins Clark.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Shari: Live experience! My husband and I did a Great Lobster Shack Tour – we drove from CT to Cape Cod along the shore road, Route One, stopping at lobster shacks and doing delicious research. Plus, I’ve read way too many books about lobsters.
KRL: What do you read?
Shari: I do love mysteries, of course, but can’t read them while I write. I read nonfiction and memoir. A special favorite book that was both is The Boys in The Boat. Love that book!
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Shari: How I love classic Hollywood musicals! And TV shows from the sixties and seventies. When I was a little girl I thought I’d be Emma Peel of the Avengers when I grew up. I’m also a huge fan of a show called American Ninja Warrior – athletes race the clock through a gigantic jungle gym – it’s so exciting.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Shari: I encourage every writer to join Sisters in Crime. This is a national writers group open to women and men (we call them “Misters.”) They have tons of helpful information and networking, but the best part is the generosity of the members. Everyone I’ve met has been genuinely happy to reach out and help beginning writers.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Shari: Thank you so much, Lorie, for supporting mystery writers.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Shari: I’m a native New Englander, but I love country western line dancing.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Against the Claw, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “claw,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 25, 2018. 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. Also listen to our new mystery podcast! The latest episode features the first chapter of Jeri Westerson’s latest Crispin Guest mystery. They are also available on iTunes and Google Play.
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