Posts tagged with: mysteries

Foanna’s 2014 Reading Roundup – Part 2

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This is a bittersweet moment for me. After nearly eight years with the Romance Bandits, this will be my last post. As you’d know from Cassondra’s moving and funny post at the start of the month, changes are afoot in the lair. One of the changes is that I’m going to devote my attention to other forms of social media other than blogging.

I’m still on Facebook:

And on Twitter as @AnnaCampbellOz.

Thank you to the wonderful Bandits for so many fabulous years together. I wish you all the best in your new endeavors. And thank you especially to the fabulous Bandita Buddies. I’ve always felt among friends here and your comments have informed and delighted and amused and moved and interested me more than I can ever tell you. Thank you for being such a vibrant part of this community.

Now, back to normal transmission and a discussion of my favorite reads from 2014.

Welcome back to part 2 of the survey of my favorite reading in 2014. By the way, happy Valentine’s Day!

In part 1, I covered my pick of the romances I’d read last year. Now I’m covering the other stuff, mysteries, nonfiction and a fabulous piece of women’s fiction that could easily have gone into the romance list last month.

I’m going to start with the oldest book, MISS PYM DISPOSES (1946) by Golden Age English detective writer Josephine Tey. I picked up this book after seeing a really interesting list of the top 10 classic mysteries: They all sounded pretty interesting and I also tried THE MOVING TOYSHOP, but this was the one that really caught my fancy.

rr 11I love Golden Age detective stories and I read a lot last year, including a couple of Ngaio Marshes and Margery Allinghams, and nearly all Josephine Tey’s books. Sometimes the attitudes in them are a little hard to take, but Miss Pym is a treasure. An independent woman takes up a temporary post at a girls boarding school and becomes involved in a murder. But in this particular story, the characters are the most interesting part, especially Miss Pym’s journey towards recognizing that she might be more than she first thought.

The next is another mystery, THE OUTCAST DEAD, the sixth Ruth Galloway book by British crime writer Elly Griffiths.

rr 12I just love this series. Ruth is a rather cranky single mother forensic archeologist who lives in a very atmospheric part of Norfolk on the English coast. In this story, she gets involved in a dig that sets out to prove the truth of a notorious 19th century murder trial. Things turn creepy when current events offer an eerie echo of the past. While it was a good read, I was a little disappointed with the previous entry in the series, A DYING FALL. But this one’s a real cracker and definitely worth a look.

The last mystery on my list is the latest in the wonderful Claire Fergusson-Russ Van Alstyne series by Julia Spencer-Fleming. THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS. I think JSF would currently vie for the spot at the top of my list of favorite writers. She writes the most amazing characters and high stakes dilemmas – I can’t put her stories down once I start them. In this one, a fatal fire leads to all sorts of complications for Claire and Russ and their friends and colleagues in Millers Kill. And with a brutal winter descending on the town, there’s danger from nature as well as man. Great stuff!

rr 7I read a lot of nonfiction, especially when I’m working on a story. I can put a nonfiction book down and get a good night’s sleep whereas if a piece of fiction has grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, I’m still turning the pages at 3am.

My first pick, STARGAZING: MEMOIRS OF A YOUNG LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER by Peter Hill is a book I’ve had sitting on my bookcase for about 10 years since a friend gave it to me as a birthday present. Silly me! It’s wonderful! It details the months the author spent as a lighthouse keeper on the west coast of Scotland in 1973, just as the old manned lighthouses became mechanized. The descriptions of the wild, spectacular coastal scenery are great and you’ll fall in love with many of the characters, but the strongest impression is one of sadness that a whole way of life is just disappearing under our eyes. A lovely book.

rr 13My next nonfiction choice is another older book, ENDURANCE: SHACKLETON’S INCREDIBLE VOYAGE by Alfred Lansing, published to immediate acclaim in 1959. I’m a bit of a sucker for accounts of polar exploration – the environment is just so unforgiving and fascinating. And I’ve long had a great admiration for Sir Ernest Shackleton who faced a situation that would have meant disaster for most people and came out on top. When Shackleton and his party are stranded in the Antarctic ice in 1912, death seems certain, but through courage, brilliance, luck, faith and, yes, endurance, they all get out alive.

This account of the real-life adventure will keep you on the edge of your seat. As part of his research, Lansing was able to interview people who had actually been part of Shackleton’s expedition so you really feel like you’re getting a true account of these astonishing events.

rr 9My last nonfiction choice is  a fascinating ramble through German history, culture and landscape with English writer Simon Winder. GERMANIA: IN WAYWARD PURSUIT OF THE GERMANS AND THEIR HISTORY is full of strange and intriguing facts and made me want to go back to Germany (I visited briefly in 1985 but after reading this book, I think I’d get a lot more out of traveling there!). It’s funny and sad and erudite – I bet Simon Winder would be an interesting person to sit next to at a dinner party!

My last choice from my reading in 2014 is the fabulous THE SHADOWY HORSES by Susanna Kearsley. This is probably best classed as women’s fiction, although there’s a strong romantic subplot.

rr 10It features another archeologist, Verity Grey, who becomes involved in a dig on the wild east coast of Scotland in search of a major Roman encampment. She finds herself surrounded by fascinating and potentially sinister colleagues, including eccentric Peter Quinnell, the head of the dig, and charismatic historian David Fortune who attracts her as no man ever has before. Throw in a little boy with psychic gifts and a ghost or two, plus a couple of other characters with their own agendas, and the scene is set for a compelling story. This was my first Susanna Kearsley, although people have told me for years I’d enjoy her stuff. They were right – this would probably be my favorite book from last year. If you haven’t read it, rush to get it!

So there you go, some reading recommendations to keep you out of trouble!

Do you read outside the romance genre? What genres do you like? Any recommendations of books I should try?

Alison Stuart Reflects on Old Friends

AB6I’m delighted to welcome back to the lair my friend, Aussie historical romance writer Alison Stuart. Alison’s here to tell us about her latest release, the Regency mystery-romance LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR. Here’s the blurb: 

Can the love of an honourable man save her from the memory of a desolate marriage?

From the battlefield of Waterloo to the drawing rooms of Brantstone Hall, Sebastian Alder’s elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of dreams. But the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his cousin’s death, provide Sebastian with no time for dreams, only a mystery to solve and a murderer to bring to justice.

AB4Isabel, widow of the late Lord Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. But, her dreams are shattered, as she is taunted from the grave, discovering not only has she been left penniless, but she is once more bound to the whims of a Somerton.

But this Somerton is unlike any man she has met. Can the love of an honourable man heal her broken heart or will suspicion tear them apart?

To find out more about Alison and her books, please visit her website:

LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR is available from AMAZON, Barnes & Noble and all good ebook stores.

For the month of May, Alison is offering a Rafflecopter contest with the prize of an author goody bag. You can enter HERE.

Here’s Alison!

I was very sad to hear of the death this month of Mary Stewart (although to be honest, I didn’t know she was still alive so I shouldn’t have been taken aback by the announcement of her death). Anyway, it got me thinking about the authors who have most influenced me in my writing.

AB3I actually haven’t read many of Stewart’s mystery stories for which she was best known in the early part of her career. The books that grabbed me by the throat and which sit on my ‘keeper’ shelf battered and thumbed and reread are her three Merlin stories beginning with THE CRYSTAL CAVE. What set them apart for me from the hundreds and hundreds of Arthurian reinterpretations (MISTS OF AVALON is another fave), was the humanity she invested in Merlin. Instead of a mystical being in a tall pointy hat, Merlin starts out as a boy in a Romano British household and comes to his position of power and influence in a thoroughly human way. Along the way he loves, he loses, he is betrayed… It is not, as has been described in some reports, a “romance”… there’s not a happy ever after for Merlin but there is a satisfactory conclusion and when you close THE  LAST ENCHANTMENT you have the feeling of a life well lived. I had great pleasure in introducing my teenage son to these books and watching him devour them as I had done. 

AB5Like most writers, I was a voracious reader from an early age.  However my taste was for action and adventure and although I cut my teeth on Enid Blyton, it was not the namby pamby FAR AWAY TREE, I was straight into the Famous Five and the Secret Seven, the shenanigans of Mallory Towers.  Other childhood favourites included:

  • Horsey stories such as the MY FRIEND FLICKA stories by O’Hara
  • The fantasy stories of Alan Garner such as ELIDOR
  • The Laura Ingalls Wilder stories which I read and reread until I could practically repeat them and were probably the most “girly” books I read.

But my overwhelming favourites were the stories of Rosemary Sutcliff and Ronald Welch and the English Civil War stories of Barbara Softly – strong historicals written for young adults with plenty of action and adventure and a good dose of romance but not necessarily romance stories. I devoured these books and there is no doubt that they had the strongest influence on the stories I write. I think I damaged my eyesight reading EAGLE OF THE NINTH under the covers by torchlight after my light was supposed to be out.

Has anyone out there read Ronald Welch? They were boys own adventures revolving around the “Carey” family – wherever there was a war or an interesting period of history, there you would find a Carey.  Of course my favourite was FOR THE KING  – the English Civil War story.  I graduated to the stories of Jean Plaidy and Robert Neill by the time I was fifteen I had pretty much exhausted every historical book that the Parkdale Library had to offer.

My passion for all things English Civil War began with THE KING’S GENERAL by Daphne DuMaurier. On Sunday afternoons my father would read to my brother and I but he loathed reading “children’s books” so the choice of book tended to be his and he, of course, chose the books he liked which is how I came to have THE KING’S GENERAL read aloud to me when I was only eight. The love affair between Honor and Richard Grenville and the derring do of the period really struck a cord with me and inspired a life long interest in both the period and books that encompassed a strong relationship between a man and a woman within the context of a historical period.

AB1My other great love was Agatha Christie. Every year my family holidayed at a guest house in Marysville (sadly destroyed in the 2009 bushfires) and my overwhelming association with that guest house are the books of Agatha Christie which I would purchase from the one shop in the town and read either curled up in front of the fire or in one of the chairs on the wide, wooden verandah. 

On the other hand, I was a Georgette Heyer fail. I think I might have read THE BLACK MOTH and I know I read THE ROYAL ESCAPE (because it was about the English Civil War) but her regency romances held no interest for me whatsoever. However, I hasten to add, I have come to Georgette in more recent years and as an adult (and a writer) I love her books (although am I the only who find THESE OLD SHADES just a bit creepy?). While I am making my confession, I wasn’t all that fond of Jane Austen either. As for Harlequin Mills and Boon, I read my first one on the plane home from my very first Romance Writers of Australia conference (a gorgeous Marion Lennox story which I still have on my keeper shelf). To be honest I didn’t even know the first book I wrote (later published as BY THE SWORD) was a romance. I was, in short, a romance fail.

AB2So I suppose it is little wonder that my own writing cuts across all these influences – romantic action adventures with action, mystery, murder, ghosts, time travel – sometimes all in the same book.  Even with my latest story LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR, which is my first venture into the world of the Regency, the romance is bounded by a murder mystery that must be solved before the hero and heroine approach anything like a happy ever after.  I think I can quite safely describe my style of writing as cross genre!

Just recently I started trawling Ebay looking for copies of my childhood favourites. Having them back on my bookshelf with the familiar covers, is like being reunited with old friends. 


Thanks, Alison, that was fascinating. And yeah, I get you on THESE OLD SHADES, although as a pre-teen when I first read it, the age difference didn’t strike me the way it does now. Good luck with Lord Somerton. I loved GATHER THE BONES and this looks like another winner!

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Books!

Lend 4Recently, I was away staying with a friend and as you do (well, as I do!), I was checking out her bookcases. As a result I ended up with a pile of new authors to try. How lucky am I?

I think as readers, we’re hardwired to lend the books we like to people we also like. It’s part of the friendship bargain – as long as the books come back. I have some friends who NEVER returned the books I lent them and it certainly cast a pall over the friendship.

I remember an exchange in OUT OF AFRICA where the Robert Redford character is talking to the Meryl Streep character about lending a book to someone who never returned it. It went something like this. MS says “What a pity you lost a book,” and RR goes “What a pity he lost a friend.” Ouch! 

One of the things I love about people lending me books is that I get to discover authors who otherwise would never have crossed my path. I get a lot of recommendations from friends and people on the net. Did you know I do a review on the 24th of every month on The Romance Dish? I’ve got some great recommendations there. But still, there’s something about that rifling through someone else’s bookcases and finding things that look interesting that makes for wonderful discoveries!

Or if a friend sends you a book they’ve loved. Great too!Lend 3

It’s also great if you can get your friends interested in books you’ve loved. One of the sad things about people NOT returning the book you lend them is that you never give someone a book you didn’t like. It’s always a book you’ve loved – and you want it back!

What fun when you can discuss a beloved series with someone as crazy about the characters as you are!

I’m sure some of you are saying now, “But don’t you want people to BUY all your books?” Not necessarily. Partly because when I’m hooked on an author, I’ll tend to buy them all anyway. Also because I think lending a book is part of the pleasure of buying it in the first place. We all love to chat books – that’s one of the fun things about being part of a wonderful community like the Banditas.

Although having said that, I haven’t seen Paolo with anything beyond THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD. Sigh. That boy!

So I thought today, I’d share with you a few books that people have recently lent me that I’ve really enjoyed.

lend 1My lovely critique partner Annie West has lent me many a book over the years. Mind you, I’ve lent her many a book too. Just to give you an example or two, she’s hooked on the wonderful Daisy Dalrymple books by Carola Dunn (really fun light 1920s mysteries set in Britain) and the much darker Elly Griffiths mysteries featuring forensic archeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway. And now she’s devouring the brilliant Julia Spencer-Fleming series featuring vicar Clare Fergusson and police chief Russ Van Alstyne like I devour Toblerone.

Do I need to paint you a picture? Anyway, I love that she’s getting the same kick out of these wonderful books that I do.

Two recent discoveries for my TBR pile thanks to Annie are the delicious Bruno, Chief of Police, series by Martin Walker and an older release, the Vicky Bliss books by Elizabeth Peters.

So far, I’ve read four of the Bruno books and they’re like soaking in a lovely deep bath drinking fine French wine. Bruno, the hero, is an ex-soldier who takes the job as chief of police in a small town deep in the French countryside. While the mysteries in these stories are intriguing, the best bit is the wonderful texture of French life that invests the stories. I’m ALWAYS hungry when I read a Bruno book! I’ve been a huge Elizabeth Peters fan for a little while now (I’ve got a feeling that Bandita Christina Brooke put me onto the Amelia Peabody stories), but Annie recently lent me the first two Vicky Bliss books. Contemporaries rather than historicals, but still with that wonderful madcap sense of humor.

 lend 2Another great read recently thanks to a fortuitous bit of borrowing was thanks to Desire author Rachel Bailey who lives not far from me. I went up to stay with Rachel and her dogs (and her long-suffering husband who has learned more about romance fiction than a man should!) earlier this year and brought back so many books, I needed two boxes to carry them! In amongst the booty was a Jennifer Crusie book that I hadn’t read before. MAYBE THIS TIME is a great romantic ghost story – as anyone who has read my THESE HAUNTED HEARTS knows, I’m partial to a great romance on the other side!

Finally, out of this whirlwind tour giving you just a tiny glimpse of my recent borrowings, I’d like to thank the wonderful Harlequin Medical author Sharon Archer who has got me well and truly hooked on Dick Francis’s racing thrillers.

Last October, Sharon lent me a couple to try and I’ve been devouring them like DOUBLE Toblerone ever since. I think I’ve now read about 20.

The joys of getting addicted to Dick Francis’s books is that there’s a huge backlist. They’re fantastic – I always learn something when I read his books and he writes the most wonderful heroes, calm, resourceful, brave, kind, honorable. Sigh. I want to marry a Dick Francis hero. I would suggest a more illicit relationship, but did you see I mentioned honorable? What fantastic books! I even wrote a My Favorite Things piece on them for my website, I love them so much:

So I have to say I disagree with Shakespeare’s Polonius, who says “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” If I was neither, my life would be MUCH poorer.

So aBanditBootyre you a book lender? A book borrower? Have you discovered any treasures in your friends’ bookshelves? If you had to lend someone new to romance a book to get them hooked on the genre, what book would you pick?

I’ve got an ARC of A RAKE’S MIDNIGHT KISS for one commenter today (international!) – and you don’t even need to return it to me once you’ve finished it! Good luck!

A Very British Murder

murder 1Do you North American girls get much chance to see British TV?

Here in Australia, we get lots and lots of it. I’ve always loved it, partly because my parents were fans, and partly because I became addicted very early on to all those wonderful British costume dramas. The original UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS, the Austen adaptations, ANNA KARENINA, TO SERVE THEM ALL MY DAYS, Brontes galore, NORTH AND SOUTH. For a historical romance fan (and future writer), those shows were catnip to a cat!

We have a government funded public broadcaster, a little like your PBS network. No ads during the programs by legislation, although the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which is confusing for Americans used to your ABC!) puts on plenty of ads for its shows and its merchandise in between its programs. This has been the home of great British drama here.

murder 4And then my parents got cable/pay TV which included whole channels devoted to the BBC and its ilk. Not to mention numerous hours to fill with programs that the other channels, particularly our Lifestyle Channel, devote to men with cut-glass accents wandering around Devon or Somerset checking out country houses. Happy sigh!

Oh, man, this little Britophile was in heaven. It was BETTER than catnip!

One particular genre of British TV that I really enjoy is a nice cozy murder mystery. None of the shows I’m talking about today are big on blood and gore (although the Brits do dark crime really well). They all rely heavily on the charm of their actors and wonderful supporting casts who seem to be on a carousel. If you see one familiar face in a POIROT one week, you’ll see her again in MARPLE the following week. And these shows nearly always feature wonderful settings. As you know, I’m a sucker for an English country house. I don’t even think I care if the vicar or the lady of the manor get murdered in it. I’d take it anyway! Especially if it featured one of those terrifically handsome English actors (and he survived the murder and mayhem – that’s a condition of purchase!) like Richard Armitage or Rupert Penry-Jones.

murder 6A show that seems to have been running for a hundred years is MIDSOMER MURDERS, based on a series of books that I haven’t read by Caroline Graham. The setting for these seem to be somewhere in the Cotswolds (although I remember visiting Somerset in 2004 and going through a string of villages with Midsomer in the name) but it’s classic fantasy England. Stone thatched cottages and beautiful manor houses and bijoux villages and people with enough money to go riding, have rose gardens and murder their neighbors. The principal character is genial Tom Bellamy played by genial John Nettles. Over the years, he’s been assisted and hindered by a variety of sidekicks.

Then it came time for John Nettles to retire to be replaced by his genial cousin John Bellamy played by genial Neil Dudgeon. It’s all very…genial. But my goodness, it’s such relaxing television. People only get murdered in the best of taste! And the new Bellamy has given the series an injection of energy that it really needed. This is all round a fun show, although I think anyone would be crazy to move into the Midsomer area however pretty it is – the death rate is through the roof!

Another staple of television here is the Agatha Christie adaptations. This will really shock you, but I’ve only read two Agatha Christies. I keep meaning to read more, but the TV adaptations are so good, I really don’t feel I need to. Oh, dear, I’m going to reader hell for saying that!

murder 2David Suchet is a marvelous actor who has made Hercule Poirot his own. The walk, the fussy manner, the dandyism, the moustache, but above all the kindness and the intelligence in his beautiful dark eyes make this rather grotesque character come alive. He veers right to the edge of caricature but doesn’t topple over. Instead we get an eccentric genius with a warm heart and a razor-sharp brain.

I love the stories in the Poirot series. I love how the murders are generally based in such real emotion. Love twisted by fate. Jealousy. Revenge. You name it. I love the Art Deco world. I love all the supporting cast. These are really well done, so if you like an English mystery story and great acting, and they’re not on your TV station, grab them from your local DVD supplier. You won’t be sorry.

On a side note, it’s always been a regret of my life that I missed seeing David Suchet on stage back in the 1980s, well before his fame as Hercule P. He was Iago to Ben Kingsley’s Othello at a Royal Shakespeare Company production in London. I had tickets but ended up getting stuck in Ireland with a ferry strike. Still gnash my teeth over that. The reviews indicated that Suchet out-acted Kingsley ten to one!

murder 3To my taste, the adaptations of Christie’s other famous detective, the spinsterish but fiendishly clever Miss Marple, haven’t been quite so apt. At least the earlier series starring Geraldine McEwan. The producers seemed to want to ‘sex’ Miss Marple up which just didn’t work. Miss Marple with a married lover in World War I? Oh, please! She’d be too busy knitting for the troops!

The MARPLES are set in the 1950s too rather than the 20s and 30s like the  POIROTS. It’s not quite as attractive a period, although the dresses are nice. Geraldine McEwan while obviously a very fine actress is a little too sharp and knowing. Without having read the books, but having seen the TV shows, I get the impression that one of Miss Marple’s strengths is that people often overlook or underestimate her and that’s when she gets her clues to whodunnit. I can’t imagine anyone overlooking Geraldine McEwan!

More recently, there’s been a casting change and Miss Marple is now played by wonderful Julia McKenzie who manages to make this amateur sleuth a compelling character without changing her from a self-effacing well-bred spinster.

murder 5For all my criticism of the MARPLES, they’re still great television (especially when you can catch Richard Armitage as a supporting character, be still my beating heart!). All three of these series, POIROT, MARPLE and MIDSOMER MURDERS are perfect Sunday night viewing and well worth checking out if you’ve never seen them. They’re gentle in their murderous way, beautifully acted and very beguiling.

Just as long as they don’t kill Richard!

So are you a fan of cozy murder mysteries, either in print or on film? Our wonderful Kate Carlisle writes some of the best so keep an eye out for her A COOKBOOK CONSPIRACY in June. Are you a Christie fan? If you are, any suggestions for which books I should start with? I really should read them!





Set Like a Jelly

by Anna Campbell

Is the title of this piece a saying in your house? It’s something my mother used to say when everything was hunky dory, in its place, ready for action. It’s always made me smile.

So let’s talk setting!

I’m a bit of a setting junkie in books. I love to be swept away to a new and different world and I love it when the writer has the skill and passion to really put me in that place so I can feel it and smell it and hear it.

I’ve always loved to learn about new places in my reading. I think of all the exotic and wonderful places Francis Crawford went in the LYMOND SAGA by Dorothy Dunnett. Or the way Anya Seton brought medieval England and France alive in KATHERINE. I also remember how my childhood and teenage reading of Mills and Boons (Harlequins) made me long to visit all these exotic places where the heroines found love. Mind you, in those days, they didn’t have male point of view in the books and the sensuality was fairly limited so the writers needed something to fill the stories up with. Travelogue suited fine! And Mary Stewart, who I read like chocolate when I was a kid, was a mistress of describing settings you could nearly reach out and touch.

Recently I’ve been having a bit of a holiday from romance and I’ve been reading a lot of crime. A book I finished recently is RAVEN BLACK by Ann Cleeves (makes me think of Henry VIII’s wife!). While this was a really good mystery with breathless suspense and a wonderful central detective (and even the start of a romance), what’s stayed with me from RAVEN BLACK is the setting. The murder takes place in the cold, bleak, hauntingly beautiful Shetland Islands in the middle of winter. Believe me, you could FEEL the aching cold and also the creepiness of short days with the icy and dangerous night closing in. Wonderful writing and I’m looking forward to returning to this fascinating and unusual setting in future books by Ann.

I’ve also got hooked on the Nevada Barr Anna Pigeon Mysteries. I think I’m up to about fourteen in the series now. Anna Pigeon is a widowed park ranger who works in a variety of national parks across the United States. Nevada Barr has a gift for describing landscape as fine as any I’ve ever read. You feel the numbing chill of the waters of Lake Superior or the almost grotesque greenery and steamy heat of Alabama or the dessicating heat of the south-western deserts. I reviewed these books on the Romance Dish on Christmas Eve if you’re interested in further thoughts. I highly recommend them.

Setting is important to me when I write. I think the two books where specific settings played the strongest role are CLAIMING THE COURTESAN and CAPTIVE OF SIN. In Courtesan, Verity at first finds the wilds of Scotland where Kylemore holds her captive hostile and terrifying. But gradually as she comes to admit her feelings for her lover, she also falls in love with the rugged Highland glen. In Captive, a lot of the book takes place on Jersey in the Channel Isles but most of that action is indoors (snigger). But the parts that take place in Cornwall were inspired by Daphne Du Maurier’s REBECCA. Even the house, Penrhyn, was how I imagined Manderley. I was very glad I didn’t have to burn it to the ground at the end. But it was wonderful to fantasise about a house on the cliffs overlooking the sea. One of the fun things about being a writer is you can pretend all these places belong to you!

Speaking of CLAIMING THE COURTESAN, it’s currently available as part of a great e-bundle for readers from Australia and New Zealand only (sorry, everyone else!). It’s called THE COURTESAN COLLECTION and it features CLAIMING THE COURTESAN, TEMPT THE DEVIL and MY RECKLESS SURRENDER and it’s on sale at a bargain price (around the $15 mark). If you click on the cover below, it will take you right to the Amazon page. We like to make it easy for our Bandita Buddies!

So are you another setting junkie or doesn’t it make much difference to you where the story’s set as long as they’re great characters? What’s the last book you read which made great use of setting? Is there a book where the setting has lingered in your mind? Have you even travelled there as a result of your reading? 

Casey Daniels in the lair

I’m so pleased to bring my friend, Casey Daniels, into the lair.  Casey inspired a scene in Redeeming the Rogue 🙂 but we can talk about that later.  I love her Pepper Martin series and can’t think of a better way to start a new year than with a new Pepper Martin mystery.

Happy New Year!
I can’t think of a better way to kick off a new year than with a new book, and yesterday, January 3, it happened.”Wild, Wild Death,” book #8 in the Pepper Martin mystery series, hit store (and cyber) shelves.
I’m always excited about sharing one of Pepper’s adventures with readers. After all, she’s the world’s only private investigator for the dead. That means there’s always something interesting (and possibly dangerous) happening in Pepper’s life, and always a ghost tagging along for the fun.
This time, it’s a trip to the great Southwest. You see, Pepper’s been downsized from her job as a tour guide in a historic Cleveland cemetery, and she’s got some time on her hands and is looking for a little excitement. It’s a perfect example of Be Careful 
What You Wish For, when an odd package arrives in the mail. It’s a ransom note along with a watch that belongs to her friend, cute and scruffy paranormal investigator, Dan Callaghan. If Pepper doesn’t bring the bones of a long-dead Indian who is buried in Cleveland to New Mexico–and fast–the kidnappers say Dan is going to be killed.

 Of course, in Pepper’s world, kidnappers are the least of her problems. Figuring out what to wear to a body-snatching is the first. After all, she’s convinced she’s going to end up getting caught, and she wants to look good for her mugshots.

“Wild, Wild Death” takes Pepper to New Mexico and southern Colorado, a part of the country where I’ve spent some time. Like me, she’s bowled over at the beauty of the place, and intimidated by its wildness. If that was all she had to think about, it wouldn’t be a bad little get-away, but once she arrives, the bones get stolen, bodies start dropping like the desert temperature once the sun goes down, and the Indian who once owned those bones is not happy.

 Pepper has to deal with kidnappers disguised as aliens, a too-hot-to-handle Pueblo police chief and one clever murderer–one whose idea of boot hill has nothing to do with Jimmy Choo.

Ghosts are fairly common in Pepper’s world.  So how about you?  Do you believe in ghosts?  Why?  Have you had a personal experience?  Let’s talk about ghosts, fashion for a body-snatching 🙂 and the Wild, Wild Death.  Casey is offering a copy to a reader leaving a comment.