by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of March of Crime by Jess Lourey, and an interesting interview with Jess. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of March of Crime, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
March of Crime: A Murder-By-Month Mystery by Jess Lourey
Review by Cynthia Chow
In the year since she moved to Battle Creek, Minnesota, Mira James has encountered at least one murder every month. Mira is justifiably concerned that the combination of her, living in Otter Tail County, ensures for lethal results. That never became clearer than in the previous month, which still has Mira in a devastating state of bereavement.
She’s not in the best state of mind to be promoting the town in the Battle Lake Recall as a fun and safe place to live, but the new puff-piece in the local paper comes with a sustainable salary. Or it would be in addition to her other jobs as a librarian, an attorney’s private-investigator-in-training, and her (now) affectionately ironic recipe column. Mira is finding herself feeling comfortably at home, if only she would just stop finding victims…
Police Chief Gary Wohnt would also appreciate an end to Mira’s streak of corpse encounters, but they’re both doomed for disappointment. Mira had thought that Ida Gilbertson’s pet project of creating life-sized, realistic-looking dolls was super creepy, and that was before Mira discovered that underneath one’s clothing was a very human, very dead, body. Self-medicating with chocolaty Nut Goodies only goes so far, but when the death count rises and Gary is intent on locking her up for everyone’s safety, Mira unwillingly finds herself once again delving into the seedy side of Otter Tail County. In this case that seems to be the Battle Lake Senior Sunset nursing home, where there are creepy wealthy volunteers, a black market for doctor-prohibited sweets, and a bingo altar at the bed of a comatose patient. Paving the way for Mira is a foster kid providing the aforementioned black market items, not to mention the irrepressible, outstanding Mrs. Berns.
This is a series that has evolved so much since its debut in 2006. By this eleventh novel, Mira and her friends have grown and matured in unexpected ways, especially considering its highly comedic core. Already troubled by the crimes of her father, Mira now suffers considerable PTSD from the year of Battle Creek murders. Having endured so much loss, she’s understandably fearful to admit her love for her boyfriend Johnny Leeson, as experience has shown that to love is to lose. Countering the darkness are Mrs. Berns and Mayor Kennie Rogers, the latter of whom has transformed from nemesis to friend. An irritating friend, one whose rotating business schemes are as morally questionable as they are bizarre, but Kennie may have finally stumbled onto a scheme that is as profitable as it is uniquely Minnesotan.
The Murder-By-Month mysteries have become some of my all time favorites, blending together laugh-out-loud moments with subtle scenes of genuine pathos. Everyone should have a Mrs. Berns in their lives, one who delivers gems of true wisdom when not living life to the fullest without a care of what others think. The next month of Mira James’ stay in Battle Creek looks to be the one that will test her true character and strength, and it just can’t come soon enough.
Interview with Jess Lourey:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
JL: I come from a family of readers who encouraged anything I scratched on paper, so I’ve been writing since I learned how. In fact, my first nickname was “Cursive,” which I demanded everyone call me after I learned to write in kindergarten.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
JL: May Day, my first published novel and the first installment in the humorous Murder-by-Month Mysteries, was released March 2006. It’s a little-bit-raunchy series about an amateur sleuth, Mira James, a Minneapolis transplant struggling to find love and balance in a small town while stumbling across one corpse a month.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
JL: The first full-length novel I wrote was my Master’s thesis, and it was never published, thank God. I’d call it women’s fiction, or even better, “thinly-veiled autobiography.” I wrote May Day after that, and while I mostly write mysteries and thrillers, I also love to read and write magical realism, fantasy, and straight-up literary fiction.
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.
JL: The book I’m working on right now is called Mercy’s Chase, and it’s the follow-up to the Anthony-nominated, star-reviewed feminist thriller Salem’s Cipher. This series, called the Witch Hunt Series, features agoraphobic FBI cryptanalyst Salem Wiley. She solves modern mysteries tied to a historical conspiracy to keep women out of power.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
JL: I write to heal myself and to make sense of my world. I hope to entertain others, and even more, to connect with others, but I always start my novels as a response to something I’m working through in my personal life.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
JL: I teach full-time and still have one child at home, which requires a disciplined schedule to write and promote two books a year. Unfortunately, I don’t have a disciplined schedule, so I take guilt, ambition, and discomfort and glue it all together. When the whole works falls over on me, I start writing.
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 while you are writing it?
JL: I outline like my life depends on it, particularly when writing a series with as complicated plots as the Witch Hunt series. I need an outline to keep me on track, but to also give me some boundaries within which I can safely create.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
JL: Definitely mornings. I think. I’ve found that writing is a challenge no matter the time of day, though. Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art brilliantly describes why, and why you have to keep writing anyhow.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
JL: Yup. May Day was rejected over 423 times before I found an agent, and then rejected by nearly every publisher before it found a home.
KRL: Future writing goals?
JL: My goal is to be a full-time writer who gets to travel the world researching, writing, and eating great food. Can we all envision that beginning in 2018 for me?
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
JL: There’s so much advice out there, so I wouldn’t presume to offer blanket guidance. My experience, though, is that my best writing comes out of listening to myself, and the story I need to tell, and accessing the archetypal emotions through my own experience, sort of like method acting. I go into more detail on the process in my book, “Rewrite Your Life: Discover Your Truth Through the Healing Power of Fiction.”
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of March of Crime, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “crime,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 4, 2017. 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 & mystery short stories in our mystery section.
Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:
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