by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of a fun new mystery by Julianne Holmes, Clock and Dagger. We also have a fun interview with Julianne after the review. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Clock and Dagger, and a link to order it from Amazon, as well as a link to purchase it from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Clock and Dagger: A Clock Shop Mystery by Julianne Holmes
Review by Sandra Murphy
In Orchard, Massachusetts, Ruth Clagan is in a race against the clock—or clocks, in her case. She’s now the owner of Cog & Sprocket, the clock shop she inherited from her grandfather. She and her handyman friend Pat have renovated the shop and her apartment above. Now the time for the unveiling is near—as well as three other events. Although the shop clocks keep good time, Ruth feels she’s continually running behind.
Mac and Ava inherited the grocery, Ben and Flo updated the barber shop, and Beckett Green, with his partner Rina, is opening a bookstore. Beckett does not play well with others. So far he’s alienated the coffee shop by setting up a coffee bar in the bookstore, and finding out he can’t sell coffee, declares he’ll give it away for free. He added magazines like the grocery store, and the latest is a collection of clocks and watches—apparently, he wants to be the ‘Walmart of Orchard.’
Mark, a new hire for Ruth, also confesses that Beckett has offered him a job to care for the clocks, but he’s turned it down. Beckett doesn’t take no for an answer. Also on board are Nadia to create the clock shop’s new website and her boyfriend, Tuck, for work as needed. Being a boss is new for Ruth.
Ruth inherited another property as well—the Town Hall. It was her grandfather’s dream to restore the old clock in the tower. The original agreement rented the building to the town for $1 a year. Now the lease is running out. Kim Gray, the town manager, seems determined to block any plans to keep the town as a tourist destination with its quirky shops. She wants to tear them all down and build chain stores. It’s a constant fight to keep up with her demands for endless paperwork and obscure rules to follow.
When Mark is found dead in Ben’s barbershop, it’s murder. Kim calls in the state police since, Jeff was out of town, now he’s shut out of the investigation. For once, he’s not upset with Ruth’s innocent questions that often turn answers into clues.
This is the second book in the Clock Shop Mystery series, with a more complicated plot readers will have to pay close attention to as clues pop up in unexpected places. Keep in mind—everybody has a secret or two, and they can surface when least expected.
My only complaint is the use of first and last names for the characters throughout the book. It’s a small town and everyone knows each other. After the first introduction, readers know them, too. It’s distracting to see Pat Reed or Jeff Paisley repeated, not just on the same page but sometimes in the same paragraph. Other than that, the storyline is enjoyable, the mystery a good one, and characters are people you’d like to know. Readers will look forward to the next installment with the possibility of romance mixed with the mystery.
Interview with Julianne Holmes:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Julianne: I have written for most of my life, but it has only been fifteen years or so that I said aloud “I want to write a novel.” That’s meant taking classes, and joining Sisters in Crime so I could meet other writers. I’ve said this often–writing is a solitary act, but being a writer requires community.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Julianne: What a thrill that was! Just Killing Time came out in October 2015. It is a cozy set in a made up town, Orchard, out in the Berkshires. Ruth Clagan moves back to take over her grandfather’s shop, the Cog & Sprocket. The Clagans are a family of clock makers. Ruth and her grandfather had been estranged, so part of her mission in the first book is to find out what happened to her grandfather, and make her peace with him. Clock and Dagger is the next book in the series.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Julianne: I haven’t. I wrote some not very good, angst filled fiction when I was just starting out. Then I realized, with the help of a critique partner, that I should write in the genre I love, and I love mysteries. I’m finding that I am also enjoying writing the romance in the Clock Shop series, so I may be expanding a bit. But I suspect I will always write in the genre.
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.
Julianne: The idea came from my editor, which was a real gift. I was trying to figure out what Orchard was going to look like, and went out to Western, Massachusetts to see a show. On my way back my GPS decided I needed a different way home, and I discovered Williamsburg. Though not officially in the Berkshires, it was the perfect setting for the town I was creating. Different style buildings, a central business district that is tiny but mighty, trees, flowers, and a river. Orchard is a town that struggled, but is coming back. I love writing about that.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Julianne: I want folks to be able to escape, for sure. But one of my favorite things about the cozy/traditional genre is that one of the “rules” is that justice must prevail. These days, that is more than escape. That is hope. I also aspire to tell a good story, and write it well. I read books that I wish I’d written, and try to learn, and grow.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Julianne: I wish I could write with a schedule. I have a full time job, so it isn’t always possible to carve out time every day. I have to admit, book deadlines help. A lot. What I tend to forget is how much I love writing. When I sit down and start, I remember.
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?
Julianne: I am a devoted plotter. I spend a long time working out the story and subplots of the book. In some ways, that is my first draft. I break it down into scenes, and try and write a scene a day until I get that first draft down, and then I edit. My goal is to give the next book more time to “rest” between drafts, so I really need to try and wrestle with a schedule.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Julianne: If by writing, you mean sit at the computer and type, I am not a morning person so I don’t write then. During the work week I write at night, and really ramp up around nine o’clock. On weekends, I start mid-afternoon. But I also consider writing thinking, and imagining. When I am in the middle of a book, I am always thinking about the story and the characters. I went to a store one day and thought “Ruth would love those earrings, maybe I should get them for her.” Then I remembered that Ruth lives in my head. That happens a lot!
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Julianne: I had my first publications in Level Best Books. They were short stories and I was thrilled to have them published. It did take a while. I also had a couple of books rejected a few times, but I think that the challenges helped me become a better writer.
One suggestion I have for people on the path to publication is, join Sisters in Crime or Mystery Writers of America. Those two organizations, especially Sisters in Crime, helped me every step of the way.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Julianne: I wrote a story that I loved, submitted it to an anthology and it was rejected. But the note in the margin was “we loved this story, but didn’t have room in the anthology. Keep writing.”
I learned a great lesson there. Rejection doesn’t mean always mean not good, it may just mean it doesn’t fit. Listen to critics and if you hear the same thing over and over again, fix it. Learn to trust your gut. Find your voice.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Julianne: I had a wonderful book launch last October, and have done a few signings. I think my favorite was when a work friend and I met at a conference. He brought out a copy of my book, well used. He told me he’d been carrying it around for weeks, hoping to see me so I could sign it. That was a lovely moment.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Julianne: I’m thinking about that a lot these days. I’d love to keep writing this series. Maybe think about another series. I’m also thinking about an aspiration book – what do I want to write? Most importantly, my writing goal is to keep writing.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Julianne: I have so many. In the mystery genre, I am a big Agatha Christie fan. She wrote some remarkable books, and had a long and varied career. I dream of writing as well as Elizabeth George. I would love to write a series as that people love as much as I love the Amelia Peabody series Elizabeth George wrote.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Julianne: I love research. For the clock shop series, I went to the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol, Connecticut and spent hours there. I also have gotten to know a clock maker, David Roberts of the Clockfolk of New England, and have learned a ton from him.
The internet is a great tool for research, but there is nothing like listening to someone tell you about their expertise. The joy they have in pointing out details. The way they explain the work. I’ve learned that talking to a police officer, or a clock maker, or an expert in any field, is invaluable. If that isn’t possible, YouTube videos are also a great way to do research since the narrators usually have passion for what they are explaining.
KRL: What do you read?
Julianne: When I am writing, I don’t read as much as I would like, but I just turned a book in, so my TBR pile is having attention paid. I read a range of mostly mysteries, but also some romance, thrillers. A lot of non-fiction. I read literary fiction and women’s fiction. I am always looking for new writers, and have a long list. One thing I don’t do any more, is suffer through a book. If I’m not immersed, I put it aside and will try it again later.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Julianne: I love television. There, I said it. I have a particular fondness for short run series, like Longmire, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Miss Fischer’s Murder Mysteries, Downton Abbey. I love British crime dramas. Favorites are Waking the Dead, Rosemary and Thyme, George Gently. I just watched a terrific Australian series, Mr. & Mrs. Murder.
Movies, I love Marvel movies. I’m a sucker for a super hero. I work in, and love, theater as well.
KRL: I too have to admit I love television!
Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Julianne: Write. Remember that you get better over time, so take workshops and classes and write. Don’t underestimate the importance of editing. Join an organization that gives you community, like Sisters in Crime. Find your pack of people, I have the Wicked Cozy Authors, and stick with them. And write.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Julianne: One lesson I’ve learned is that it is critical to be happy for other people. My blogmates at the Wicked Cozy Authors all had book contracts before I did. I celebrated with each of them. There was no guarantee that I would join their rank and get a contract, but being happy for their success was easy. They are my friends. When I did get my contract, no one was as happy as they were. My best advice is to be as grateful and as gracious as you can possibly be.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Julianne: If you follow me on social media, you know I am a Red Sox fan. What most folks don’t know is that I am a huge Star Trek Next Generation fan. Huge. I wonder if anyone’s written a cozy series set on the Enterprise?
KRL: If you find one be sure to let me know.
Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Clock and Dagger, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “clock,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 3, 2016. 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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