by Cynthia Chow
This week we are reviewing another mystery set during the holiday season, Photo Finished by Christin Brecher. We also have an interesting interview with Christin. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Photo Finished: A Snapshot of NYC Mystery By Christin Brecher
Review by Cynthia Chow
Thanks to an agreement with her grandparents, Liv Spyer has been able to move into a New York City studio apartment where lives alongside her own photography studio. It might be questionably legal due to zoning laws, but the aspiring professional photographer hopes to build up her portrait work business in exchange for occasionally helping out with her grandparents’ locksmith business. As a result of joining OneShot.com, Liv has been hired by Regina Montague to photograph the high society Holiday Debutante Ball at the Pierre hotel. Unfortunately, Liv’s hopes to launch her career are dashed when billionaire Charlie Archibald is murdered at the event, with a bloody Regina standing over his body. Loyalty to the first client willing to give her a chance has Liv vowing to prove Regina’s innocence, despite the investigating detective’s confidence that he has already closed the case.
With an eye for detail and an unwavering confidence in her client, Liv begins looking for evidence in the pictures she took and in a collection of society photos from previous events. Along the way she meets Harry Fellowes, an insurance agent who accidentally got a hold of her expensive camera but was more than happy to return it despite a few communication snafus. Through Liv’s photography skills and some not-so-stealthy investigations into prospective clients’ lives, Liv is able to uncover the secrets of an elite event planner, the billionaire co-founder of an investment firm, and jealous exes. Back at home Liv is growing increasingly alarmed about her Poppy’s health, and soon she may have even more reasons for wanting Regina freed so that she can be an enthusiastic positive business reference.
This first in the series by the author of the cozy Nantucket Candle Mystery series makes the most of the New York City setting through descriptions of street food, over-the-top debutante parties, and eccentric NYC residents. The victim being responsible for a new investment fund that tanked means that there is a surplus of those wishing him dead although it’s just as likely that the motives were far more personal. Light flirtations between Liv and Harry begin with his rather unplanned invitation to her family’s Thanksgiving Dinner, and it continues through the holiday season. Harry has his share of secrets though, and while he may have some of the answers Liv is looking for in her investigation, his background stirs up just as many questions. Liv’s eye for faces and details are just as important as her locksmith skills as she attempts to prove her client’s innocence, solve a billionaire’s murder, and keep her family together through the season. Liv is a determined young woman who quickly wins the affections of readers through her devotion to her challenging family and her ability to roll with the punches. This is the start of an entertaining new series that gives readers a fun glimpse into life in New York City.
Interview with Christin Brecher:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Christin: I began writing fiction as a hobby about fifteen years ago. I’d left a corporate job, had two tots at home, and decided to write because it’s portable, cheap, and mind-bendingly hard. I really had no idea how much I would love to write and how the experience would influence my life.
KRL: When did your first novel come out, what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?
Christin: Murder’s No Votive Confidence (#1, Nantucket Candle Maker mysteries), was my debut novel, published in 2019. The book, along with two more in the series, features Stella Wright, a native of the historic Nantucket Island in MA, where she makes and sells candles in her store, The Wick & Flame. In this first book, Stella lands a job decorating Jessica Sterling’s candle-themed wedding. However, when the bride’s uncle is found dead, and the murder weapon turns out to be Stella’s large and seemingly indestructible Unity Candle made for the wedding ceremony, she adds sleuth to her resume to save Jessica’s wedding.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not, what else have you written?
Christin: I have only written mystery, although I see Photo Finished as a rom-com mystery. I loved writing about Liv and Harry’s chemistry, which grows as the two help each other solve mysteries each has.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Christin: New York City is certainly a jump from the small towns often featured in cozy mysteries, but in the case of Photo Finished it worked. I was able to present a romantic and exciting NYC as Liv sees it through her lens. The city is the gorgeous backdrop in which Liv run uptown and downtown; and upstairs and downstairs between high-society and her warm, close-knit family in their “well-loved” West Village townhouse.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to experience from your work?
Christin: I write to entertain, but the heart of cozy mysteries speaks to me. The books can be deceivingly light, while at their core they explore how everyday people jump bravely into the unknown to right wrongs they see, and all while still managing their jobs, love lives, friends, and family.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just work whenever you can?
Christin: I work every day to hit my deadlines! Even when I’m not physically at a computer, I’m plotting and replotting.
KRL: What is your ideal time to write?
Christin: When my new puppy is sleeping ?
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?
Christin: I always have a vision for a story from start to finish before I begin a new book, but my outlines serve more like goal posts while the details evolve along the way. In Photo Finished, I designed a vision board which I’d never done before. Since Liv Spyers is a photographer, the visual exercise helped me get to know her.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Christin: The first book I wrote was never published, but I was lucky. I have an amazing agent and I met a wonderful editorial team at Kensington for the Nantucket Candlemaker mysteries.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Christin: As I mentioned above, I see Photo Finished as a rom-com mystery. It was therefore extremely gratifying when Kirkus Review said the book has “the cutest meet-cute in NYC.” Their review gave me confidence that both genres can live together harmoniously.
KRL: How exciting! Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Christin: I was thrilled this fall to attend Kensington’s Cozy Mini-Con in PA. Hundreds of readers travelled from near and far to meet, win prizes and reconnect. It also happened to be Kensington’s first live event in years and the energy was high all-around.
KRL: What are your future writing goals?
Christin: I am adding the final touches to Mugshots of Manhattan, the next book in the Snapshot of New York City mysteries. It’s listed for pre-order on Amazon, and I’m thrilled to see it coming to life. The cover is gorgeous!
KRL: Who are your writing heroes?
Christin: As a mystery buff, Agatha Christie and Rex Stout are at the top of my list. I also love the dry wit, light touch, and masterfully disguised complexity of PG Wodehouse books along with Rene Goscinny’s Nicholas children’s book series.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Christin: I love the writer’s excuse to walk into different places or situations. Knock, knock; I’m working on a book, and I wondered if I could just poke around and….
KRL: What do you like to read?
Christin: I’m beginning a Reading Journey where I start with one book and see where it leads me, regardless of genre, author, best-seller list. I started with Calvino’s Cosmicomics (literally because I liked the cover, I hadn’t thought about Calvino in years). Now, I’m reading Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I picked the book because everyone on BookTok was raving about it – and I’m going to be sad for days when it ends.
KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?
Christin: In December?? No contest. Hello, old friends at the Hallmark Movies channel. I’ve been waiting for your addictive movies all year!
KRL: Have you any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Christin: Enjoy yourself. Listen to criticism if you ask for it. Don’t feel that you need to be published in order to be a success.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Christin: Hmmm… I’m sort of an open book.
KRL: Do you have any pets?
Christin: I have a new puppy named Murphy. He’s a Boston Terrier/French Bulldog mix and he’s sleeping next to me right now.
KRL: Is there anything you would like to add?
Christin: Many, many thanks for inviting me today and for reading Photo Finished. I’d also like to thank readers who take a moment to post book reviews. It means so much to authors.
KRL: You are very welcome! Website? Twitter? Facebook? Instagram?
Christin: TikTok (aka BookTok): christinbrecherbooks
To enter to win a copy of Photo Finished, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “photo,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 17, 2022. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. 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. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new Christmas episode went up this week.
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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. 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.
Grandparents do come in handy.
So good of them to help Liv with
living arrangements. Sounds like
a good read. thanks
I really enjoy holiday books this time of year. On my TBR list.
Sounds interesting! Count me in!
Thanks for the opportunity! tWarner419@aol.com
We have a winner!