Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Erika Chase's Debut Cozy Series Nominated for Award from Malice Domestic!

"Hey! I came over to meet the star cats!
So where are they?"

A Killer Read:
An Ashton Corners Book
  Club Mystery
Nominated for Agatha Award for Best First Novel!

By Erika Chase

I thought I would do a little "light" mystery reading over the weekend, but this novel, debuting a new series, was much more than you normally get in a cozy... First, readers will notice that there are chapter excerpts, all from other books. What I wondered was whether the excerpt was discovered first and then the chapter shaped to fit it (Yikes!) or whether the book was written and then, somehow, she found appropriate sentences to fit the chapter. Honestly, it seemed that they were very complementary and I couldn't figure out how that could be done. In any event, I applaud the author because this additional touch certainly gave a beautiful "touch of class" to make it, indeed a killer read!

"She delighted in the fact that every second morning
when she ran in the opposite direction, it took her
along Cavendish Road and past the blue Cape Cod
house she'd grown up in. Her earliest memories had
her in the bottom left corner kitchen cabinets, the
ones her daddy had removed the turntable shelves
from and transformed into a playhouse. She'd spend
hours sprawled on the cushions he'd added playing
school with her two favorite dolls, Becky with red
hair and the blonde bombshell Barbie, surrounded
by the sounds of her mama humming as she worked
in the kitchen.
"she'd outgrown her special place by the day the
humming stopped. That shattering day when just
before dinner, Chief Bob Miller had shown up at
the door to tell them her daddy wasn't coming
home again..."
Perhaps because it included a new book club being formed and, since the murder occurred right outside of where they were meeting, all the members were suspects!

Well, that just was unacceptable to our main character, Lizzie Turner, who had started the new group. Lizzie is a "Reading Specialist" who not only worked with teachers, but also tutored individual students who were having problems in their classes due to their limited reading and study skills. Lizzie also led literacy classes, was in the community choir, and was a sympathetic friend... It's a wonder she had time to breathe...

And I was sorry to say that she really didn't take much time with her cats, Edam and Brie, so I just had to spotlight them a little here, even though they stayed at home, while Lizzie was out all the time... Poor things!

But then I snooped around and found that the cats in the Chase household actually help the writer rather than the characters! Their names have been changed to keep them from all the fans that normally surround the stars, but I did "snatch" a couple of pics to share with my cat lover readers!

Molly hosted many of the activities Lizzie initiated both because they were friends and because as a widow she enjoyed having people visit. But when the book club members had settled down and one came in late, she had announced that there was a man in the hallway. Nobody knew him and he quickly asked to use the phone and then left, only to be killed. It was around the same time that Molly realized that several small things had been taken from her home... Had the man stolen them while he was there roaming in the front area?

That issue became even more important when they discovered that the gun used to kill the man had also been owned by Molly. Apparently that had also been stolen although she had not been aware it was gone. Of course, the police thought that was a little too convenient and made it clear that Molly was being seriously considered!

At that point, the entire group decided to investigate. Bob Miller who was the retired chief of police was certainly going to check things out... But as things progressed, Lizzie was seeing things along the way that made her question what several of her group may be hiding. Was it related to the murder?

And then Lizzie started getting phone calls about her father who had died many years ago! At the same time, somebody started sending her a manuscript. At first she thought somebody in one of her classes wanted her to review their work--but why keep it a secret?

The investigation was not only getting more complicated, but the police were getting nowhere, especially since they kept looking at the book club members! Lizzie was determined to get all of their names cleared, but after issues about her father came up, she realized that apparently there was something about his death that needed to be discovered as well! But how could all of this be tied together? Many years separated the two deaths!

Now readers, the author gave a one-word clue early on that, if you pick it up, you will know who is guilty! Do you read that closely? I did! And I was right. Still, I was totally in the dark about all the other issues that were discovered along the way... The twists that forced everybody to go back into time made things difficult since so many of the individuals were already dead through natural causes. Still, there had to be people who knew what was going on--following the trail to those individuals was difficult but fun as each tip led to another person, who knew a little more, and so on...

By the way, the members of the book club are proving to be interesting characters so I'm looking forward to getting to know them better and see whether the budding relationships that came about in this first book, will continue on. But it will probably be somewhat boring to settle into normal reading activities--unless, of course, there's a murder or two for them to solve in each book. LOL...

Into Cozies? Do check this one out!


Erika Chase

Erika writes the Ashton Corners Book Club mysteries for Penguin/Berkley Prime Crime. In a parallel life Erika Chase is also known as Linda Wiken. A former mystery bookstore owner (Prime Crime Books in Ottawa, ON, Canada), Linda is also a short story writer. She is a member of those dangerous dames, The Ladies' Killing Circle.

Her short stories have appeared in the seven Ladies’ Killing Circle anthologies (three of which she co-edited), and in the magazines Mysterious Intent and Over My Dead Body. She has been short-listed for an Arthur Ellis Award, Best Short Story, from Crime Writers of Canada.

Before life in the world of mystery, she worked as an advertising copywriter, radio producer, journalist and community education worker. Besides writing and reading mysteries, her other passion is choral singing and she is a member of two choirs. Okay, maybe one more passion -- chocolate!

She shares her house with Keesha and Mojo, her two Siamese cats. Actually, they allow her to live there.
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