by Kathleen Costa
This week we have a review of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Disappearing Diva, the latest in a fun mystery series written by Gemma Halliday and Kelly Rey. We also interviewed the writing pair. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Disappearing Diva, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Disappearing Diva: A Marty Hudson Mystery
By Gemma Halliday and Kelly Rey
Move Over Sherlock…Marty is Here!
First published in 2016 with Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Brash Blonde, Gemma Halliday and Kelly Rey teamed up to bring mystery fans a bit of a twist on the Sherlock Holmes franchise. Martha “Marty” Hudson inherited an old San Francisco Victorian at 221 Baker Street, has a friend and dot-com millionaire Irene Adler with whom she pals around, and circumstances has her running into the grumpy Detective Lastrade and the sexy medical examiner Dr. John Watson. Circumstances? Marty decided to investigate the suspicious death of her great aunt, but doors and mouths were closed to “two curious females.” So, to improve their chances to find answers, Irene creates the personae of Sherlock Holmes to front their investigations with the appropriate credentials, official business cards, and a website. Clients don’t seem to mind that Mr. Holmes is always “unfortunately…unavailable,” but now Marty and Irene are stuck with a “fictional” boss they’ve created. Can they keep up the ruse?
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Disappearing Diva earns 5/5 High Cs…Clever!
Marty is struggling with her Victorian house that currently is serving as the Sherlock Holmes Investigation’s location, and money issues have kept full-time residence on hold and needed repairs only on a “to do” list. So, maintaining the Sherlock Holmes ruse and accepting paying clients is a necessity. A successful first case and a mention in the San Francisco Chronicle may improve their case load and bottom line, but it doesn’t improve the niggling feeling they are being deceptive about who is actually doing the detecting. Enter Barbara Lowery Bristol.
Barbara Bristol hopes to hire Sherlock Holmes to find her missing sister, Rebecca Lowrey, a talented coloratura soprano in rehearsals with a traveling operatic company. Seems an easy enough job, until Barbara informs them Rebecca is dead and it’s her body that has gone missing. She explained that at the morgue the body had been positively identified as her sister, but the body delivered to the mortuary was not her. Maybe this would be biting off more than they could chew, but the fees could cover a down payment on a new roof…we’re on it! So a Diva has disappeared, visiting the sexy Dr. Watson is bittersweet, weirdness abounds at the funeral parlor, and suspects, motives, and revelations about the sisters make both women wish Sherlock could actually take the lead.
I am a fan of Gemma Halliday and Kelly Rey as individual authors, but teaming them together has been delightful experience in this second book in the series. They bring their signature writing styles with clear descriptions and engaging banter to create a very entertaining mystery. For me, beyond those characteristics and a very satisfying story beginning to end, I want a set of characters that are realistic. I want realistic backgrounds, realistic reactions to events, and realistic decision-making processes and investigating methods. Marty Hudson checks all my boxes! She is grounded, yet flawed, and recognizes she can’t ignore even antagonist law enforcement. As a barista at a Stanford café she took advantage of her access and “crashed” several university classes which has provided her with a unique degree of knowledge she applies to her investigation. The investigation is methodical, and although she may go off on an unsanctioned avenue of interest, she knows the value of law enforcement, no matter how “grumpy.”
The side characters are also done well, even quirky at times, with her BFF/sidekick, handsome/by-the-book ME, senior citizen neighbors, suspects, witnesses, and an inherited basset hound. Along with page-turning peril, humor has not been lost. This is a very entertaining book, and if book one has all the same attributes, it’ll be next on my “TBR” queue.
Be a Gemma Halliday Fan!
The series that introduced me to the cozy mystery genre was Gemma Halliday’s thirteen-book High Heels Mystery series. Post retirement in late 2014, I bought my first eBook, Spying in High Heels, and found loads of fun with her heroine Maddie Springer, an L.A. shoe designer who happens on murder. Her sometimes flawed character has fears and dreams I found perfectly entertaining!
Be a Kelly Rey Fan!
As my exploration of the cozy genre continued, I found and have become a fan of Kelly Rey after reading “Motion for Murder,” book one in her Jamie Winters series. It was a very entertaining mystery surrounding the law firm at which Jamie Winters is a secretary. She has a tendency not to see the the truth of her strengthens, but reading about her growth and success is a delight with this series.
Interview with Gemma Halliday and Kelly Rey:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Gemma: I started writing with publication in mind in 2002, so about 16 years ago.
Kelly: Honestly, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. Even when I was a child, I would spend every free minute writing stories (when I didn’t have my nose buried in a book, that is).
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called, and can you tell us a little about it?
Gemma: My first published book came out in 2006, and it is a humorous romantic mystery was called Spying in High Heels. It follows fashion designer turned amateur sleuth Maddie Springer as she goes looking for a missing boyfriend, $20 million dollars in embezzled funds, and a cold-blooded killer, all while trying to stay one step head of the sexy LAPD homicide detective Jack Ramirez.
Kelly: Motion for Murder was my first published novel, and the first in the Jamie Winters Mysteries series. It was released in 2014 and involves the murder of one of the attorneys in a personal injury mill filled with eccentric characters. Because of my past experience working in the legal profession, I decided to make my protagonist a legal secretary with a dubious skill set and a raging case of self-doubt surrounded by…well, call them loose screws. Jamie Winters was born!
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Gemma: When I first started writing, I was trying to get published by Harlequin in contemporary romance. The first seven manuscripts I wrote were in the romance and chick-lit arenas. In fact, that seventh, Viva Las Vegas, I’ve since self-published. As a reader, I’ve always been a mystery fan, so that’s where I ended up fitting in best.
Kelly: Yes, this genre was my first love and I’ve been faithful to it. Although I enjoy reading across many genres, the humorous cozy mystery meshes with the way my mind seems to work. I do have a few rough manuscripts which take a few steps outside the mystery genre. Some day I’ll revisit those and see where that takes me.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Gemma: I grew up reading mystery classics such as the Sherlock Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, so the idea for the Marty Hudson Mysteries came directly from those, but I really liked the idea of bringing about a female driven, modern take on the legend of Sherlock Holmes. My books always feature strong, independent women, so it was fun coming up with a new take on an old legend.
KRL: Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Kelly & Gemma: Like the first book in the series, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Brash Blonde, our latest, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Disappearing Diva features Martha (Marty) Hudson, a struggling barista who’s inherited a ramshackle Victorian at 221 Baker St. in San Francisco from an aunt she never knew, and her best friend, Irene Adler, a gorgeous dot-com millionaire. In the first book in the series, Marty tries to find out how her aunt died, and Irene comes up with a great idea to open up some of those official doors that are slammed squarely in the face of two female civilians – create a fake famous detective named Sherlock Holmes! In our latest book, the fake detective starts getting calls from very real clients, and since Marty needs real money to fix up her Victorian, they take on a case of a missing person… which turns out to actually be a missing body of the dead diva in a San Francisco opera company.
KRL: How did you end up writing together and what has that been like?
Gemma: I ADORE writing with Kelly. She is so funny, and I often find myself cracking up while working when I’m reading a scene she’s written. She has a knack for characters and timing that is fabulous.
Kelly: Speaking for myself, it’s been fabulous in every sense of the word. Gemma proposed the idea, and she’s so accomplished and so talented, I was thrilled to get on board. The collaboration feels very easy and natural, and that’s really a testament to Gemma’s generosity.
KRL: What is the process of writing this book together? Have you written others together?
Gemma: In general, I do a lot of the plotting and mystery elements, and Kelly does a lot of the character work and comedy. I think we work really well together as a team as our strength complement each other. We have written one other book together, the first in the Marty Hudson Mysteries. Though, Kelly has published 6 books in her Jamie Winters Mysteries series though my boutique publishing house, so we’ve worked together on all of those projects as well, Kelly as the author and me as the editor/publisher.
Kelly: As Gemma mentioned, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Brash Blonde, the first in our series, was released in 2016. The writing process for us is pretty simple and totally collaborative. Gemma produces a working outline, tweaks it if necessary based on feedback or if something just isn’t working, and I produce a rough first draft. After that, the book goes through a refinement process where we both add our critique until we’re satisfied with the finished product.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Gemma: First and foremost – entertain. I think you can’t ever put enough emphasis on how important comedy is in life. A laugh is golden. 🙂 Beyond that, I like to put work out there that portrays women as strong and independent while still human and fallible. I try to infuse my stories with an undercurrent of the “new” feminism, the idea that a woman can be strong, independent, intelligent AND girlie and fun at the same time.
Kelly: I’d like the books to offer a diversion from real world stresses. They provide that to me during the writing, and my hope is that if I find the books enjoyable, readers will, too. You can’t ask for more than that.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Gemma: I am a full-time writer/publisher, so I’m at my desk from 9-5 every week day. Lately, I’ve forced myself to take weekends off because my family does like to see my occasionally.
Kelly: I try to write every day, which isn’t always possible, of course, but even a paragraph handwritten on a notepad is progress, and it keeps my head in the flow of the story daily, which is critical on a long project like a novel.
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?
Gemma: When Kelly and I work together, we definitely have a very detailed outline – it usually falls under my portion of the collaboration, and we generally stick pretty closely to it. I think especially in mystery, it’s difficult to create a good breadcrumb trail of clues without knowing where the story goes.
Kelly: Fortunately for me, Gemma is the consummate outliner, because it’s really not my forte. I’ve tried to outline, but invariably, by the time the actual writing begins, I feel as if I’ve already written the book and I tend to lose interest. So, I’m what’s called a “pantser” which means I just fly by the seat of my pants. Gemma’s outlines keep me from running into walls.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Gemma: I’d love to write late at night… maybe some day when my kids are grown. 🙂
Kelly: That’s an easy one. I’m not a morning person, so I’d much prefer to work in the afternoon or at night. In reality, I write whenever I have the time, regardless of the clock.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Gemma: Continue being able to entertain readers! Longevity is not a give in this business, so I’m grateful for every day that readers continue to want to read my stories.
Kelly: Just really love to keep writing books that people can lose themselves in for a while. It’s a real privilege to offer that enjoyment to readers.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Gemma: I’d feel terrible picking as I’m afraid I’d leave out some great ones. But as you can tell, I have a soft spot for the classics, like Sherlock Holmes.
Kelly: So many, and for different reasons. I used to read purely for pleasure, and while I still do that, now I tend to admire technique. For example, Mary Higgins Clark’s plotting is intricate and superb. Dean Koontz’s use of language is stellar. Robert B. Parker’s brevity was deceptively difficult and so effective. And Janet Evanovich is so funny and so readable.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Gemma: Most of my research is done online. Isn’t it nice we can learn so much without leaving home? 🙂 Though, I’m sure I’m on several watch lists with the odd things I google. Even my own mother, for example, is always a little alarmed at my knowledge of poisons.
Kelly: Depending on the plotline, I’ve researched modern and medieval weapons, poisons, fraud and crimes of deception, blunt impact trauma…you get the idea. It’s a day at the office for a mystery writer, but I’m sure I’ve raised some eyebrows at Google.
KRL: What do you read?
Gemma: Through my publishing house, Gemma Halliday Publishing, we’ve put out a book a week for the last 5 years… so I mostly read the cozy mysteries that I publish! But, if I had a genre to read just for pleasure, it would be the same, so I can’t complain.
Kelly: Like a lot of writers, I think the better question is – what don’t I read? Everything from cereal boxes to just about every fiction genre, and when I want a dose of reality, nonfiction, as well.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Gemma: I’ve been loving the Trial & Error series this past summer! It’s rare to find a TV show about murder that is actually super funny and cleverly intriguing, but this one hits both for me!
Kelly: My favorite movie is Casablanca. There’s not even a close second. On TV, I tend to watch national news programs.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Gemma: Read! I highly recommend reading in your chosen genre but also outside of it and going for the classic books as well. The more you read, the more you’ll have a natural feel for pacing, plot, and vocabulary. And the more you can take on the view of a reader when it comes to your own work!
Kelly: Don’t give up! And while the conventional wisdom is to write what you know, I’d tweak that slightly and say write what you enjoy. You’ll be more comfortable in the genre, more familiar with its structure, and have a better sense for what works and what doesn’t. But above all, don’t give up!
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Gemma: Thanks so much for having us!
Kelly: Thank you for this opportunity, and thanks to the readers who decide to bring Marty and Irene into their lives. I hope you like them as much as Gemma and I do.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Gemma: I started out doing everything for my business myself – taxes, corporate filings, contracts, marketing, website coding, cover design…you name it! Honestly, I just didn’t have money to pay others when I first started my writing career. So, I took the time to learn how to run all aspects of my writing business myself. While I don’t always do it all myself now, it’s nice knowing I can step into any role if I need to!
Kelly: I can be kind of shy, which makes writing the perfect form of expression for me.
To enter to win an ebook copy of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Disappearing Diva, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “disappearing diva,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 22, 2018. If entering via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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