by Kathleen Costa
This week we have a review of White Lightning by Melissa Yi, along with an interesting interview with Melissa. 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.
White Lightning: Prohibition and Predators, A Hope Sze Medical Crime Mystery By Melissa Yi
Review by Kathleen Costa
From Medicine to Murder
Hope Sze is sometimes referred to as “detective doctor” due to previous encounters with suspicious deaths. In actuality, she’s a resident physician at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, along with her good friend Tori Yamamoto and fiancé John Tucker, who prefers being called Tucker. It’s an unusual weekend to find all three friends off duty at the same time, and after receiving a strange invitation, Tucker arranged for them and Griffin, Tori’s boyfriend, to lodge at the Rumrunner Rest in Windsor, Canada, and to enjoy all the Rogue Con craziness. With the town’s rich Prohibition history, they are set to enjoy a great weekend of rumrunning history, iconic gangsters, costumed rogues, “knock-your-socks-off” concoctions, and a bit of trouble spelled m-u-r-d-e-r.
White Lightning Earns 5/5 Moonshine Shots…Intriguing & Clever Gem!
“Hope, I’ve seen a ghost,” said Tori Yamamoto. This isn’t an everyday occurrence, and Hope has never witnessed any of her friend’s visions, but the Rumrunner’s Rest has such a rich history from Prohibition days that specters roaming around might not be far fetched. But, really, a ghost? The three friends were escorted into the basement where they were treated to an unexpected news event, and although obviously distressed, Tori wasn’t coming across with many details about her sighting. Two local experts, which shockingly included Hope’s ex-boyfriend Ryan Wu, had come upon blueprints of Rumrunner’s Rest and discovered a chimney whose hearth had been filled in. They believe that inside might hold something of great historical significance, so with the owners’ permission, sponsors, and a film crew, they are opening up the chimney. The event sure had its drama, but the discovery of human remains was over the top. Then Tucker is greeted by a possible relative and her story of a man referred to as “White Lightning” which causes Hope to fear they were purposely brought here. It gets more suspicious when they discover electronic surveillance equipment in their room, a possible stalker, and a frightening betrayal.
Excellent! Dr. Melissa Yi has penned an engaging and complex ninth story adding a bit of fascinating U.S. and Canadian history, serious criminal intent, and a paranormal twist. The tale includes a cold case murder mystery, missing persons, and human trafficking, as well as factionalizing events and figures from the Prohibition era and incorporating the failings of the life of a young orphan taken in as a chimney sweep. It’s a lot, but fascinating and very easy to follow. Several references are made to previous relationships, incidents, and the possibility an issue from the past has reappeared, which only validates that Hope has been entangled before and not with everyone’s approval. Gotta check out the rest of the series, too! This book has its intense moments, intriguing revelations, entertaining interactions, and clever decisions by the lead characters … all in all definitely a great read!
Beyond a great drama, informative elements, and a nail-biting ending, it’s the characters that star in my mind. Hope is a dynamic lead with a healthy curiosity, compelling insights, and realistic strengths and weaknesses. The romance is well done with Tucker and helps to break up some of the intense subjects matter. Her friend Tori and her “I see dead people” vibe adds a unique component that is not hokum or juvenile, and Tori’s boyfriend starts as a puzzle then becomes an integral member of the group. Great series!
Hope Sze Medical Mystery
Code Blues: When Medicine Becomes Murder (2011)
Notorious D.O.C.: The Cold Case That Kills (2011)
Terminally Ill: Where Magic Meets Murder (2014)
Stockholm Syndrome: Two doctors. One Killer. One woman in labor. (2015)
Human Remains: Science and Slaughter (2017)
Death Flight: A Killer Flight with No Way Out (2018)
Graveyard Shift: When a Hospital Equals Homicide (2019)
Scorpion Scheme: Death and Danger on the Nile (2020)
White Lightning: Prohibition and Predators (2021)
Be a Big Melissa Yi Fan!
Melissa Yi is an emergency physician with an active practice and an award-winning writing career. Her Hope Sez Medical Mystery series mostly set in Montreal, Canada, has nine books each with Dr. Sze finding herself in the middle of many complicated, cleverly constructed murder mysteries often putting a spotlight on the dark side of the medical practice, doctors, and hospitals.
Dr. Melissa Yi is taking her popular protagonist, Hope Sze, and moving her into a new series, Hope’s Seven Deadly Sins, starting with book one The Shapes of Wrath: Hell Hath No Fury Like a Surgeon Scorned due out in February and currently on preorder on Amazon HERE.
Facebook Friends: Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes
Website: Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes (Melissa Yi)
Interview with Melissa Yi:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Melissa: I wrote my stories when I was five or six. My first-grade classmates dictated theirs to me so I could write them down. My teacher passed by, shook her head at me writing in cursive, and said, “Now we’ll have nothing to teach you.” I liked her, but she was strict. She threw chalk at kids who didn’t pay attention!
Melissa: Code Blues, the first Hope Sze medical mystery, debuted in 2011. I’m an emergency doctor. I’d finished my medical training, and finally had more free time to write. As I watched patients in gurneys back up the hallways, I’d subconsciously started to think about murder and wanted an enemy I could fight. Wouldn’t you love to see a doctor who saves lives AND finds killers at the hospital? And so, the “detective doctor” was born!
KRL: When did your first novel come out, what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not, what else have you written?
Melissa: I started in fantasy and science fiction. My then-boyfriend, now husband, said, “Why don’t you write F&SF? They publish a lot of short stories.” I won a Writers of the Future contest in my last year of medical school and now my short stories have been collected in Chinese Cinderella, Fairy Godfathers & Beastly Beauty and Dog vs. Aliens, Grandma Othello & Shaolin Monks in Space. My memoir, The Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World (And Other True Tales from the Emergency Room), became a bestseller on Amazon. I also write romance, non-fiction, and books for young people as Melissa Yuan or Melissa Yuan-Innes. For me, a good book is a good book. I love every genre!
KRL: Wow you sure keep busy! What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Melissa: I listened to a podcast about the seven deadly sins and thought, Aha! Hope should explore each sin at her hospital in Montreal, Canada. I love Montreal’s gourmet food, artists, and mix of cultures and humour, but not the decimated health care and endless potholes in the streets. Hope’s Seven Deadly Sins also explores the paranormal. I’d introduced a ghost at the end of the previous series, in White Lightning. Time to merge my medical and fantasy roots together in one delicious, thriller cocktail!
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to experience from your work?
Melissa: Entertainment first, especially since we live in such arduous times, but I absolutely adore learning something new every time, so my readers do too. For The Shapes of Wrath, I had to quiz my colleagues about how things have changed in the operating room since I last scrubbed in. I always learn more devious ways to kill people. 😉 But I enjoy passing on not only medical diseases but cultural aspects, like a deep dive into ancient Egyptian history for Scorpion Scheme, and crucial facts like that there are no scorpions in Cairo. Too industrialized. I had to rejigger my plot around that one!
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just work whenever you can?
Melissa: I always work whenever I can. Stop, drop, and write. Five minutes is five minutes of writing. That said, I had more time to write for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), and I found it ideal to get my kids on the school bus, walk the dogs with my husband, and set up a desk outside with a pretty cloth and a mug of hot water. I write 1000 words, take a break, and write another 1000 words. However, once it hit mid-November outside of Ottawa, Canada, and my fingers started to freeze over, I had to move by the fire instead. It’s the first time in my life I established a writing routine.
KRL: What is your ideal time to write?
Melissa: Morning! I used to try to wake up before my baby and write and pump before I nursed her. I still prefer to write early and then have the rest of my day free for other stuff.
KRL: Do you outline?
KRL: 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?
Melissa: Mostly, I write spontaneously, which means that I constantly surprise myself, but I waste a lot of words, so if I need to flesh something out, I’ll write a few scenes in advance or some sort of synopsis. I also use beta readers if I can. For The Shapes of Wrath, for example, I had a bevy of doctors critique the operating room scenes to make sure I get them right. Kathleen Costa always has incisive comments and doesn’t pull her punches.
KRL: That sounds like our Kathleen! Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Melissa: Absolutely disheartening. I’d get A’s in school but couldn’t get anything published for years! Keep honing your craft and keep submitting to trad pub, or publishing if you’re Indie. Eventually, you’ll build an audience.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Melissa: The first time an editor commented on my work, I routed self-addressed, stamped envelopes to my parents in case rejections came during the summertime because I moved at the beginning and end of every school year. I was too embarrassed to have my mom read out rejection letters, so I had no idea Robert Runté had scrawled some encouraging words at the bottom! We’re now friends through SF Canada, and I’ve thanked him.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Melissa: Graveyard Shift was inspired by local police officer, Scott Coulter, and I donated part of the proceeds to the Akwesasne Family Wellness Centre. I was happy to support our indigenous community through the AFWC. Then I played medical bingo. I assigned medical problems to every attendee, and they besieged Scott, who had worked as a paramedic before he became a police officer. He tried to treat everything from chest pain to a broken foot while I kept sending him patients. I had a good laugh, and a woman afterward told me it was the best book launch she’d ever seen. I planned a treasure hunt for a fantasy and science fiction launch, and the children and adults loved it!
KRL: What are your future writing goals?
Melissa: I want my writing to connect me with people, places, and things that excite me. I’ve unlocked part of that. For example, a travel company hired me to write novels in exchange for travel to Ecuador, the Galapagos, and Egypt. I always want to improve my writing skills, find more passionate readers, earn more money, and have more fun! Which means I love meeting readers, reading other writers, and relaxing too.
KRL: Who are your writing heroes?
Melissa: Kristine Kathryn Rusch knows how to write, how to teach, how to edit, and is absolutely business-minded as well as a good person. I enjoy reading Dana Stabenow, Charlaine Harris, Jackie Lau, Alyssa Cole, Courtney Milan, Jennifer Crusie, Sarina Bowen, as well as newer Canadian authors like Cynthia Zhang, Sienna Tristan, and Jamieson Wolf.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Melissa: For Hope Sze, I read tons of crime news stories and science articles and pick my friends’ brains. I also read voraciously and walk my dogs and think.
KRL: What do you like to read?
Melissa: All genres. You can see from my favourite authors that I like mystery, romance, fantasy and science fiction, but I also read a lot of non-fiction. Right now, I’m reading a lot about theatre because I’m writing and producing my play, Terminally Ill.
KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?
Melissa: I sobbed over Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but couldn’t rewatch it. Recently, my family got sucked into Squid Games, and 3/4 of us are watching Wednesday. Looking forward to Ted Lasso’s third season also.
KRL: Have you any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Melissa: Read read, read, write write, write, but also make friends with other writers. You can keep each other’s spirits up and cheer each other on.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Melissa: I love to eat! One of my sins is gluttony.
KRL: Do you have any pets?
Melissa: We have two rescue dogs, Roxy the big, gentle, intelligent ten-year-old Rottweiler who loves me unconditionally, and Bell, the small, loud, mountain cur.
KRL: We had a Rottweiler named Roxi! Is there anything you would like to add?
Melissa: Thank you for a very thorough interview!
To enter to win a copy of White Lightning (ebook or print winner’s choice), simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “white” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 7, 2023. You must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. BE SURE TO STATE IF YOU WANT PRINT OR EBOOK. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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Calling George Jones! Count me in!
Sounds like a spooky story. Ready to
read. thanks. txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com
I’d like to get a copy of this one! tWarner419@aol.com
I’d like a print copy of I win, please.
Sounds like a book I would enjoy reading. I prefer a print copy.
A great interview thank you. Always happy to find new to me authors.
PRINT thank you.
We have a winner!