by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of the brand new mystery novel from Denise Swanson, Murder of a Stacked Librarian. We also have an interview with Denise and you can enter to win a copy of the book-details at the end of this post!
Murder of a Stacked Librarian: A Scumble River Mystery By Denise Swanson
Review by Cynthia Chow
While school psychologist, Skye Denison, is completely overwhelmed with her plans for her post-Christmas wedding to Police Chief, Wally Boyd, the rest of Scumble River is more occupied with discussing the practices of temporary librarian, Yvonne Osborn. It seems that her unwavering adherence to rules and uh, generously proportioned figure, have made her the talk of the town, and not in a good way. Skye herself even witnesses aggressive attentions forced on Yvonne and her impressive self-defense response. Yvonne is definitely no timid, staid, book reader and she seems to be rubbing the locals all in the wrong way.
As a librarian myself, I have a ton of empathy for Yvonne and her respect for order that protects the library and ensures smooth operations. However, the many residents of Scumble River are less than enthusiastic as they are forced to pay fines, not eat in the library and own up to their mistakes. So perhaps no one is entirely surprised when Wally is late to Skye’s family’s Christmas Eve celebration due to the discovery of Yvonne’s car, run off the road into the river with her still in it. Wally suspects that it was not an accident and Skye’s knowledge of the resentment surrounding the librarian makes it a definite probability.
As a consulting psychologist for the Scumble police, Skye partners up with Wally and sacrifices the time she needs to deal with a demolished wedding cake bakery, an expanding invitation list and a growing-by-the-minute, very pregnant bridesmaid. While Skye’s mother seems alarmingly complacent and unusually cooperative, her uncle the mayor seems to be instigating a nefarious plan which will impact on both her and Wally’s future. There are more than enough suspects for Wally and Skye to interrogate and eliminate, including Yvonne’s greedy and amoral ex-husband, the angry neighbors who accused her of meddling, and the rejected suitors who vowed to teach the librarian a lesson in loosening up.
Through sixteen novels and two short stories, Denise Swanson has continued to make Skye and the adventures of the Scumble River residents interesting and continually evolving. It has taken thirteen years (six years in the Scumble River world, where it is still 2006) for me to warm up to the character of Wally Boyd who, ostensibly because of his frustrated and prohibited love for the younger Skye, previously treated her with derisive threats every time she became involved in a murder.
Now, with the recent revelation that he is the son of an extremely wealthy family, Wally has morphed into the perfect hot boyfriend. This actually works well for the series, as the pair act as a cohesive and effective investigative team to solve murders. This was always a very humorously written series, but now it succeeds in incorporating a strong mystery procedural element as well.
Swanson continues to include her trademark humorous aphorisms and chapter headings, and followers of the series will enjoy the reappearances of their favorite characters. It may only be 2006 in Scumble River, but for readers the series continues to be fresh, fun and thoroughly engaging.
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Interview with Denise Swanson
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Denise: I wrote my first book in Kindergarten. It was a picture alphabet book using all animals. I had to be a bit creative with some of them and make up an animal own for X.
KRL: When did your first novel come out, what was it called and can you tell us a little about it?
Denise: July of 2000, Murder of a Small-Town Honey. In this book, my sleuth has just returned to her hometown after being jilted, maxing out her credit cards and losing her job. It takes place during Chokeberry Days a town festival and her brother is accused of murdering the guest of honor.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Denise: My roots are in romance, although I’ve never been published in that genre. I’m currently working on a connected trio of romances that I will probably self-publish. I’ve also written an apocalyptic novel which needs a lot of work before I can put it out there.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Denise:I enjoy writing about small towns and the characters that populate them. Skye was inspired by my years as a school psychologist and Devereaux was inspired by my love of the tough women who own their own businesses.
KRL: Tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Denise:Murder of a Stacked Librarian is the 16th book in the Scumble River series. It takes place in a rural town located in Central Illinois and the sleuth is Skye Denison, a school psychologist.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Denise:Yes, and I have 270 rejection letters to prove it!
KRL: Wow, now that’s encouragement for those still struggling! Future writing goals?
Denise:As well as continuing my two mystery series, I would like to also write romances.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Denise:All the female mystery authors who fought to provide a level playing ground for the rest of us, and are still fighting to get women reviewed and considered for the awards that the men dominate.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Denise:I mostly research online, but occasionally do field trips and interviews.
KRL: Now that you’re writing two different mystery series, do you have any special techniques or methods to keep you from accidentally blending the characters together? Or is it easy to keep the series separate from each other?
Denise: It’s pretty easy to keep them separate because the Scumble River books are written in third person and the Dime Store books are written in multiple point of view, first person for the sleuth and third for the two men.
KRL: You have worked as a school psychologist for early twenty years. Have you ever thought of writing a young adult novel?
Denise: I have thought about writing a YA, but I don’t think I have the right voice for that genre. I do have a lot of young readers. I’ve heard from kids as young as 12 who read my books and I know I have high school and college age readers.
KRL: Skye’s relationship with her family has always been central to the Scumble River Mysteries. How do you see that changing with her marriage to Wally?
Denise: Skye’s family will still play a huge part in her life, but she will be a tad more independent and more likely to stand up to her mother.
KRL: Did you always plan to make the relationships between parents and their children so central to the novels?
Denise: Skye and May’s relationship is very different from Simon and his mother Bunny, yet they are all very involved in each other’s lives.
I love writing about relationships, so although I didn’t consciously plan to emphasize the child/parent relationship, it naturally evolved with the stories. Probably, because I am so close to my mother and my extended family, this has seeped into the books. In the Dime Store books, there’s a whole different aspect of the parent/child relationship and I’m really enjoying exploring that new avenue.
KRL: When you started writing the books featuring Skye Denison, did you have her future planned out? Did you always envision Skye being in the place she is as events occur in Murder of a Stacked Librarian? Or did your path for her evolve as you continued to write?
Denise: I definitely didn’t have her future mapped out.
I never, in a million years, thought the series would go on for so long. My publisher told me that my first book was a nice, little regional mystery, but wouldn’t have much appeal outside of the Midwest. It had a very small print run and I fully expected that the series would only contain the three books I was under contract for at the time. That book is in it’s 16th printing!
But to answer your question, much like real life, Skye’s life has had a lot of twists and turns that surprised me. In my original conception of the series, Wally remained married and Simon was Skye’s only love interest. I had no idea that Skye’s brother would get married before her or to the woman he chose. The appearance of Bunny was a complete surprise to me, as was Wally’s “secret” background. It’s been a journey for me as much as for my characters.
KRL: What do you read?
Denise:Mysteries, romance, science fiction, fantasy, woman’s fiction, a little horror. Almost anything but “literary” books.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Denise:Taped to my computer monitor is a sign that says: It’s not how good you are. It’s how bad you want it.
KRL: How very true! How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?
Denise:Although, I fear the death of the Indies and chain bookstores, anything that encourages more people to read is a positive to me.
KRL: Do you read e-books yourself?
Denise:Yes, but I mostly only read books that are unavailable in print.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Denise: I love Zombie books and movies.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Murder of a Stacked Librarian, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Librarian,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 14, 2013. U.S. residents only.