by Sandra Murphy
& Ali Brandon
This week we have a review & giveaway of a fun cat and book related mystery set at Thanksgivng, Twice Told Tail by Ali Brandon. We also have a fun Thanksgiving related guest post from Ali. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Twice Told Tail, and a link to order it from Amazon, as well as a link to purchase it from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Twice Told Tail: A Black Cat Bookshop Mystery by Ali Brandon
Review by Sandra Murphy
It’s Thanksgiving time at the brownstone bookstore. Robert has the café running smoothly with his Goth friend Pink, trained as his backup. Darla wants to make sure the bookstore makes as much money as possible during the season to carry them over possible dead months of January and February.
In Darla’s personal life, it only took a few dates for her to realize she and Detective Reese made better friends than a romantic couple. Now Reese and Connie, a true Jersey Girl, are engaged. Somehow, Connie has made Darla her BFF in spite of having a dozen bridesmaids on hand to help out. First ‘The Dress’ came. It was a custom made, designer gown, and Connie swore it made her butt look big. To the dismay of Connie’s mother, it went into the incinerator during one of Connie’s bridezilla fits of anger.
The local bridal shop owner and Darla are able to talk Connie out of a cut to the navel and plunged to the tramp stamp backside view dress and into one that is truly flattering. Darla is sipping champagne (there have to be benefits to going along to pick out bridal attire) when Connie shrieks about a dead body in the dressing room. Luckily, it’s just another bride, too tightly buttoned into her dress, fainted from a lack of oxygen.
The dress picked out, now it’s time to pick the something old, something new, borrowed, and blue. Darla suggests the antique store next door. They won’t have to walk around in the cold, there’s fun stuff to see, good prices, and like everyone else, the old brother and sister can use the business. When Connie starts screaming about a dead body, Darla figures she’s imagining things once again. Sadly, not so.
The body is truly dead and someone known and beloved in the neighborhood. Reese puts everyone on a need-to-know basis and figures no one needs to know. Darla thinks asking a few questions here and there, will not only take her mind off the party she’s throwing for the couple, but help find the killer. And there’s the weird bidder on one of their older books. He’s determined to have it at any cost, even more than the sale price or its worth.
Hamlet has a potential love interest in the form of a stray female cat who looks a lot like him, just a bit smaller. He’s not a fan of the idea, at least at first. Robert has his own love interest with one of the animal rescue volunteers. Darla’s not sure either one of them recognizes the attraction for what it is, but it’s sweet to observe. James and Martha are still together and still denying they’re more than friends. Even Jake, who lives downstairs and runs a detective agency, has a secret sweetie.
This is the sixth book in the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series and sadly, the last. No details were given, but many contracts for Penguin’s cozy mystery series are not being renewed in order to make way for new series. It’s always important to pre-order when you can, leave a review at Amazon or GoodReads, and spread the word on social media to keep good series rolling along.
Readers will be sad to see the last of Hamlet and Darla but can always imagine them in the bookstore, cozy against the frigid northeastern winters, reading a book, sipping a hot drink.
A Very Orphan Thanksgiving
By Ali Brandon
A popular trend for many years has been the “Orphan Thanksgiving”: a group of friends who would otherwise be alone on that holiday banding together for a traditional Turkey Day blowout. My husband and I have taken part in a few such gatherings over the years. The reasons have varied: we lived a thousand or more miles away from the nearest family, we didn’t have sufficient vacation time to make a trip home, or cash was too tight that year to allow for a visit. While it’s not quite the same as sitting down at the same table with your actual family, these makeshift dinners with friends have always been a satisfying substitute.
Well, except for when someone contributes a fancy-shmancy homemade cranberry mixture to the feast instead of bringing good old jellied cranberry sauce in a can!
Thanksgiving was on my mind while I wrote Twice Told Tail, book six in my Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series. This book is set in mid-November, meaning Turkey Day is just around the corner. My protagonist, Darla Pettistone, is a transplanted Texan living in Brooklyn with no family nearby (except, of course, for Hamlet the cat). Moreover, since she owns a retail business, she is all but obliged to be open on Black Friday. This means leaving town for the long holiday weekend is out of the question. And thus, it made sense for her to plan an Orphan Thanksgiving of her own with her similarly stranded friends.
So, what are the rules for hosting a successful Orphan Thanksgiving? That’s for each orphan-wrangler to decide, but I have a few suggestions.
First, don’t be shy about adding new people to your usual guest list. In addition to the familiar gang, Darla plans to welcome her elderly friend Mary Ann’s new beau to the table. Next, Darla also searches out some fun Thanksgiving Day accoutrements at Mary Ann’s antique shop next door. One of her finds is a covered ceramic pie plate whose top resembles a pumpkin. She also eyes a gobbler-shaped soup tureen as a possible table centerpiece. What better way to get the dinner conversation going than with a bit of whimsical décor?
Certainly the menu is important, along with a willingness to try other folks’ culinary traditions (except for the aforementioned fancy cranberry sauce!). Darla has no problem when her friend, Jake, suggests bringing lasagna to the feast. Oh, and well-behaved pets are allowed – though Hamlet certainly doesn’t consider that definition to apply to him! And leftovers are essential. Even though her young clerk, Robert, will be spending Thanksgiving with his own family, Darla assures him there will be plenty of turkey and trimmings in the bookstore refrigerator for the days to follow.One final rule for a successful Orphan (or any other) Thanksgiving Day dinner is the Rule of Thanks. Darla is thankful for her store, her friends, her far-flung family – and, of course, for Hamlet. And when I sit down to my own Thanksgiving Day feast this year (with canned cranberry sauce, needless to say), I’ll be adding to my gratitude list all my readers who have made writing this cozy series such a great experience over the years.
To enter to win a copy of Twice Told Tail, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “tail,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 19, 2016. 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.
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