by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of Divorce is Murder by Elka Ray, and an interesting interview with her. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Divorce is Murder. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Divorce is Murder: A Toby Wong series by Elka Ray
Review by Sandra Murphy
Toby Wong is a lawyer. She moved away years ago but is back in her hometown because her mom was diagnosed with cancer. She loves her mom, but there are two bones of contention between them—Mom’s repeated question “Have you met anyone?” and the fact that her mom is a psychic via tarot cards. Toby’s best friend thinks this is very cool, but then again, she doesn’t have to live with it, so to speak.
When Toby was a pre-teen, she and her BFF, Quinn, went to summer camp. Events there didn’t go Toby’s way, and she’s never gotten over it. Now she’s seeing all the same Mean Girls, and they haven’t gotten any better.
When one of them turns up dead, Toby is hired to represent the dead woman’s husband. How awkward is it that Toby had a huge crush on him at camp? As things get more complicated, Toby has to ask, could current events stem from those long ago days at camp?
This is the first book in a new series, introducing Toby, a Chinese Canadian lawyer. Toby is a likable character, someone you’d certainly want to call if you were arrested. She’s determined to find out the truth, even at her own risk. Her friend Quinn is funny and a great bestie. She’s pregnant so look for more complications coming up, once the baby arrives. Mom is delightful – quirky, funny, and not too Mom-ish, except to Toby.
Readers will enjoy the twists and turns this story takes and look forward to the next.
Interview with Elka Ray:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Elka: For eons. When I was twelve, I wrote a story about some scheming rabbits. The teacher told my mom I’d grow up to be a writer.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Elka: My first novel, Hanoi Jane, came out in 2011. It was a light, fun mystery about a girl with a broken heart who sought romantic revenge but ended up finding so much more. Sadly, the publishers marketed it as Chick Lit, which was awful timing as it came out just after Chick Lit was officially declared “dead.”
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not, what else have you written?
Elka: Well, according to my first publisher I wrote Chick Lit! I still do, in a way, although the term has fallen out of favor. My books tend to be about and aimed at women. Yet lots of guys read them. I’m always surprised that many of my best reviews come from men. They enjoy the humor. No matter what I write, it must contain a mystery. That’s what tugs readers forward. I read many genres but if there’s no mystery – and by that, I mean something I need to know – I’ll stop reading.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Elka: Divorce Is Murder is set where I grew up, in Victoria, B.C., on Canada’s Vancouver Island. It’s popular with tourists thanks to its gardens and stunning coastal scenery. My books are set in the nicest neighborhoods, which are very picturesque and charming. How I love to commit (fictional!) crimes in idyllic venues… I mistrust places – and people – who look too good to be true. What’s lurking beneath the manicured surface?
The book’s main character, Toby Wong, is a divorce lawyer. As a kid, my best friend’s mom was one. My first-ever job was filing and photocopying in her office – the first all-women law firm in Western Canada. I’d see ladies trail into her office, weeping. A good divorce lawyer does more than just ensure a fair settlement. They’re also part counselor and part cheerleader, supporting clients through a major upheaval. There’s a lot of scope for drama – making this job perfect for a mystery series.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Elka: First and foremost, I’m an entertainer! Most of us are too tired and busy to slog through dull prose hoping to learn something. Of course, I’d like readers to gain more than just fun from my stories. Fiction expands our understanding of human nature, both good and bad. It lifts us into someone else’s shoes and makes us more empathetic.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Elka: As well as writing, I’m a paid editor. That takes about half my time. I have a strict schedule, working 8 a.m. to 3-ish. I usually eat lunch at my desk. Sometimes, I’ll take a quick break to race to the beach, which lies two minutes from my house. A lot of my “work” gets done while I walk or swim. That’s when plots and voices come to me, and how I untangle plot snarls.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Elka: I’m neither a morning nor a night person but a middle-of-the day, after strong coffee person.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Elka: If I had to estimate how many times my work has been rejected 500 times would be a low guess. I don’t think there’s an agent alive (and some not) who has not rejected me! Yet I now have my dream-agent and am seeing real progress. If you’re hearing endless NOs, keep writing and improving. Perseverance pays off.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Elka: Along with the Toby Wong Vancouver Island mystery series, I write darker, scarier suspense. I like to mix it up – fast, fun mysteries and heavier, issue-driven thrillers. This fits my life philosophy. It’s all about Yin and Yang, or the balance of opposites.
KRL: What do you read?
Elka: Nowadays I read mostly crime. Favorite authors include the UK’s Tana French, Belinda Bauer, and Sabine Durrant; Australians Jane Harper and Liane Moriarty; and my fellow Canadian mystery author Louise Penney. As a kid I read all the classics, from Treasure Island to Fahrenheit 451, plus popular YA. In my twenties and early thirties, I read almost exclusively literary fiction. I now find most literary fiction too depressing. While mysteries deal with heavy topics, the solution serves as resolution – something that’s often lacking in real life.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Elka: Instead of trying to sound smart or eloquent just tell your story as simply and honestly as you can.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Elka: This New Year’s Eve will mark 25 years since I moved to Vietnam. I came “for one year” and never left! After 20 years in huge, polluted cities I’m now incredibly grateful to live in a small fishing village on the beach. A “big night out” now involves walking the dog or taking a night swim when the ocean is full of bright blue phosphorescence.
KRL: Where can people find you online?
Strangely, and against all expectations, I’ve become something of an Instagram addict. When I first joined, I thought it was all girls in bikinis riding skateboards and urban nomads living in vans. But slowly I found my creative tribe – readers, writers, artists, and folk with all sorts of strange passions. Beyond the book people like @contraryreader, @ocinneide1 and @readingdarling, who are obvious favorites, I’m obsessed with a German woman who paints moody girls – @stephanie.steinhardt_14; a talented knitter – @craftymrsriley; and a landscape photographer who makes me homesick for Canada – @zalam604.
To enter to win a copy of Divorce is Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “divorce,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 9, 2019. 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.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors.
Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:
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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases using those links. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.