by Cynthia Chow
& Rick Copp aka Lee Hollis
This week we have a review of a fun, brand new mystery series by Lee Hollis, and a very interesting guest post by Lee aka Rick Copp about his vast work in TV. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Poppy Harmon Investigates 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.
Poppy Harmon Investigates: A Desert Flowers Mystery by Lee Hollis
Review by Cynthia Chow
A bit actress in television roles until she retired from working in Hollywood twenty years ago, Poppy Harmon had settled into life as a mother and wife to a businessman in Palm Desert, California. So it was a shock to discover that after Chester’s recent death, his gambling addiction has completely bankrupted her, leaving her with multiple mortgages and a depleted savings account. While her best friends Iris Becker and Violet Hogan are more than willing to offer loans and housing, Poppy’s too prideful to rely on the kindness of…friends. Instead, she’s going to use her years of experience in the role of a secretary to a private investigator on the television show Jack Colt to meet the requirements to become an actual, professional private investigator.
While Poppy never doubted that she had the smarts to become a private detective, she didn’t expect that her friend would be so eager to join up for the ride. With Iris’s financial smarts and social connections, and Violet’s BS-detection skills honed as a former principal and high school teacher, the ladies open their florally-themed Desert Flowers Detective Agency. Except for a few misled hopefuls lured in by a tantalizing, if deceptive, website, clients are not exactly rushing to their doorstep. At least that’s until they make Poppy’s daughter’s boyfriend Matt Cameron the face of the detective agency, with the actor’s good looks and surprisingly good acting skills immediately attracting a new client. Shirley Fox, another actress from the 1970s who has stayed more relevant and successful than Poppy, wants to hire the agency to investigate the thefts plaguing the Palm Leaf Retirement Village. Keeping their business hidden from Poppy’s disapproving daughter will be as problematic as discovering the many crimes going on within the lively community, but these ladies and one gentlemen are more than up to the challenge.
Even though I have always looked forward to the sharp and hilarious wit of this brother-sister writing team, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this debut series featuring a has-been actress of a certain age. I should never have doubted that these authors would once again deliver a unique, sharply-plotted novel inundated with moments that will have readers snorting with laughter. As a massive fan of Remington Steele, I was eager to see how the authors would place their own unique twist on the puppet-detective scenario. The results here are outstanding, with Matt only becoming more appealing as he throws himself into the investigation despite Poppy’s fervent wishes. Violet and Iris are no decorative flowers themselves, and their contributions are as unexpected as they are exhilarating. The jaw-dropping ending is guaranteed to catch readers off guard, and they will be left anxiously waiting for the encore performance of these outstanding characters.
Editor’s note: This time around only the brother half of this writing team, Rick Copp, wrote this book.
It’s a “No Brainer”
By Rich Copp, Author of Poppy Harmon Investigates
Lee Hollis is two people. Lee is the middle name of my sister, Holly Lee Simason, and Hollis is my middle name, Richard Hollis Copp. I’ve been a professional film and TV writer for over thirty years in Hollywood, and I have been writing mystery novels for nearly twenty. My sister was a food columnist for our local paper in Bar Harbor, Maine, and so when my editor at Kensington suggested writing a series about a food columnist, teaming up with my sister was a no brainer. Writing Hayley was like hanging out with my sister Holly, which is always a blast! And now twelve books and counting into the series, I felt it was time for a new challenge, and so Poppy Harmon Investigates was born.My first job as a writer was on the hit sitcom The Golden Girls. I was twenty-four-years-old when I was hired on staff, so you could say I have been comfortable writing for mature women for a very long time. The idea of a team of female crime-solvers also appealed to me because as a child I was and still am an avid fan of Charlie’s Angels. The ring tone on my iPhone is the Charlie’s Angels’ theme song! I wanted Poppy, Iris, and Violet to be their own characters, not derivative of Dorothy, Blanche, and Rose or the Angels, so I began building Poppy’s back story as an actress on a hit detective show back in the 1980s called Jack Colt, PI. However, in that show she played the secretary of the private eye and was basically window dressing and never got to do anything too exciting in the episodes, just answer the phone, and get kidnapped every now and then, and have to be rescued by the dashing hero. I loved the idea of Poppy, now at retirement age, finally getting to be the hero, the one in charge who actually gets to solve the cases and in her real life and not on television! Iris and Violet are based on two dear friends of mine. One sadly passed away as I was writing the book, but I am happy that her legacy will live on in the Poppy series.
The other theme I wanted to play with was the idea that with age comes wisdom. Our society seems to ignore or marginalize people, women especially, of a certain age, and so I thought it would be challenging for these ladies to start a detective agency on their own. Most people would probably hesitate hiring them, which is how the whole Matt Flowers character came to life. I also loved that old Pierce Brosnan series Remington Steele where he became the face of the woman-run agency when no one would hire a female detective. That was a perfect premise for its time, but now, women run everything, so it’s no longer that relevant. Ageism, however is still a huge problem in our society, and I thought it would give Poppy a more contemporary spin. Matt is a bit of a bumbler and as an actor he has a healthy ego, so I thought it would be fun for him to mix it up with three much more pragmatic and serious-minded women who want to be successful private investigators.
The joy of writing Poppy Harmon Investigates was the interaction of the characters and watching their relationships blossom as they work together. When I finished the book, I felt Poppy had grown immeasurably as a person and as a detective from when we first meet her in her lawyer’s office and she discovers that her late husband has spent her entire life savings. Her whole world is blown up, and at sixty-two-years-old, she is suddenly faced with starting all over and finding a means to support herself. You’re immediately in her corner and then the fun really begins as her plan to become a detective slowly comes into focus.
I’m excited to start work on Poppy’s next adventure Poppy Harmon and the Hung Jury, which will be released in hardcover in January 2020. Poppy, Iris, and Violet will still be running the Desert Flowers Detective Agency along with Matt, who has grown pretty fond of his role playing “Matt Flowers, Private Eye.” We’ll also meet Rod Harper, the dashing leading man who played Jack Colt, PI back in the day and is still a strikingly handsome man. I totally see Tom Selleck playing the role in the movie version! But nothing is ever easy for Poppy, and she will find herself in the middle of a very complicated love triangle while trying to solve two cases at once that might be connected!
Anyway, you have plenty of time before Poppy Harmon and the Hung Jury is at your local bookstore or online so don’t forget to start with Poppy Harmon Investigates! Oh, and be sure to be on the look out in the coming months for Yule Log Murder, a holiday-themed anthology featuring novellas by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Barbara Ross as well as the next Hayley Powell adventure Death of a Wedding Cake Baker, which will be out next spring!
To enter to win a copy of Poppy Harmon Investigates, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “poppy,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 15, 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.
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