by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of Guaranteed to Bleed: The Country Club Murders by Julie Mulhern, along with an interesting interview with Julie. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase it.
Guaranteed to Bleed By Julie Mulhern
Review by Cynthia Chow
Blame the expensive French lipstick. If it hadn’t rolled underneath the bleachers while she was watching her daughter’s high school cheerleading routine, single mom Ellison Russell would never have discovered the body of young Bobby Lowell. Ellison would also not have cut her hand, run into Detective Anarchy Jones, or heard Bobby’s last words (“tell her I love her”). Ellison hasn’t seen Detective Anarchy since he suspected her of murdering her cheating husband, and although she’s not a suspect this time, he still warns her away from his investigation. Ellison is unable to ignore the last wish of a dying boy, though, and she’s determined to deliver the message.
Ellison navigates through the conventions of her old life—1974 Kansas City high society—while establishing a new one. Her teenaged daughter Grace is becoming something of a trial, exploding with rage and demanding independence one moment, and acting like a needy child the next. Despite Ellison’s declaration that she would never date again due to her proven history of poor taste, she discovers that her brief escape to France hasn’t alleviated her confusing attraction to either Anarchy or attorney Hunter Taft.
In this excellent follow-up to her début The Deep End, author Mulhern continues to depict the trappings of a privileged community. Husbands, wives, and their children are forced into putting up a façade of perfection, and their apparent shallowness hides the pain this effort demands. Ellison is torn between protecting her growing baby girl, dealing with her own socialite mother, and struggling to craft a career as an artist. A strong element of humor via Ellison’s dry wit alleviates the tension, along with the headline-making events that somehow manage to involve her in a cross-dressing burlesque club. Ellison’s number-one priority is always her daughter, but she notices that the community’s focus on children is twisted.
Readers who enjoy Susan Isaacs’s novels will love this series that blends a strong mystery with the demands of living in an exclusive society. Watching Ellison develop the strength of character to break through both her own and her society’s expectations is a sheer delight.
Julie Mulhern Interview:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Julie: My seventh grade English teacher, Dottie McCord, suggested that I pursue writing. That was a seed that took a long, long time to grow. I got serious about writing in 2012, landed an agent on January 2, 2013 and was on submission with a historical romance for an eternity—so long I decided to write a mystery. As it turns out, both books sold in three book deals in 2014.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called?
Julie: My first novel, The Deep End, released in February, 2015. It is the first book in the Country Club Murders. In it, Ellison Russell swims into the lifeless body of her husband’s mistress and finds herself in a world of trouble.
KRL: Have you always written mystery/suspense? If not, what genre?
Julie: In addition to mysteries, I write historical romantic suspense. My first book, A Haunting Desire, was released in July and is set in turn of the century New Orleans. A serial killer is leaving men dead in the street and the hero and heroine must find the killer. I’ve never written a book without a murder. Not sure what that says about me…
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters of your series?
Julie: My mysteries are set in 1974, an eventful year when the difference between appearances and reality became evident to all. The action takes place around a country club in Kansas City. Missouri, and the heroine, Ellison Russell, is forced to confront unpleasant truth after unpleasant truth.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want readers to take away from your work?
Julie: I write to entertain. That said, I hope my characters stay with readers after the last page is read.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing?
Julie: I write in the mornings. I usually get up around five and write for a few hours before I go to work. On weekends, when my teenagers and husband sleep in, I write for much longer.
KRL: Do you have an outline? If not, do you have some other means to work out what happens?
Julie: I wish I could outline. It would make life much easier. *Stops typing and sighs* I write to plot points. Filling in between those points is like walking in the fog…in the dark…wearing a blindfold.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you work?
Julie: There are mornings when I’m writing and the words are flowing that I wish I could spend my whole day tapping away at computer keys. Of course, there are other days, days when the words come grudgingly, that I am GLAD I have a full-time job.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Julie: My trip to publication seemed agonizingly slow when I was living it. In retrospect, I realize how very fast it was. I was lucky.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story?
Julie: Part of getting published is getting rejected. The rejections that hurt the most were those from editors who said NICE things. “I loved the atmospheric writing here and the way in which Ms. Mulhern was able to capture the mysterious and almost supernatural qualities of the Deep South. There was a Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil quality about this that really grabbed me.” And then she passed.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Julie: I’d like to write more of Ellison’s adventures, plus an idea for a second mystery series is percolating near the back of my brain. When I have time, I’ll write it.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Julie: Research? Don’t you mean “rabbit hole”? I use the internet—everything from Wikipedia to etymonline. With Google’s help, I’ve discovered Thea Porter caftans, the cost of living index for 1974, and the exact shade of Betty Ford’s inaugural gown. I post the visual bits of my research on Pinterest.
KRL: What do you read?
Julie: I read everything. I love a good mystery but I also love biography, history, and bestsellers from the era I’m writing about (as if I needed an excuse to reread Watership Down).
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Julie: TV –The first season of The Wire is about as close to perfect as television can come. I think it’s streaming on Prime right now. Well-worth a binge. Favorite movies? Romancing the Stone, and Casablanca.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring writers or beginning writers?
Julie:Write. Join a group. Take a class. Find tools to help hone your craft. Then write some more. That and don’t give up.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Julie: Until 1974, a married woman couldn’t have her own credit card. Think about that and then think about the changes in women’s rights since then! I love writing about an era when women’s roles change dramatically and my characters must question exactly what their roles are.
KRL: That’s cool. What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Julie: I sprinkle commas on my manuscripts like salt on a plain baked potato. As long as they’re there, I don’t really care where they land. It drives my grammarian critique partner wild.
You can learn more about Julie and her writing on her website.
To enter to win a copy of Guaranteed to Bleed , simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Bleed,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 17, 2015. 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.
Click on this link to purchase this book: