Tag Archives: cozy mysteries

Review: Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare Chase

Review: Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare Chase
Eve Mallow Mystery Series
Bookouture (December 4, 2020)

Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare Chase is a cozy mystery pleasure read! I bought it for myself for over the holidays when I decided to take a few days break from publishing work and responsibilities and just immerse myself in something fun! This is book four, and I hadn’t read any of her other books, but when I saw the cover come through my twitter feed with the picture of the old mill on it, it piqued my interest! I love old mills, especially in overseas landscapes. And I love british mysteries. On a personal note as well, I found after buying, that though I live in America now, this takes place in “a sleepy Suffolk village” in England, and this is the area in which I was born and lived as a child. I rarely see books set here and it was so nice to be taken to this landscape of the healths and rivers and coasts.

The book starts at a holiday party, which I also found perfect for a holiday read, but yet not overly “christmas” or “holiday seasonal.” I was ready for a mystery and I thought it’d be the perfect palate cleanser from some of the other things I’d been reading. I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Though I didn’t have much time to read in the end to finish it as quickly as I’d have liked (this would have otherwise been a two day read), I enjoyed looking forward to it when I could and finally finished it in mid-January.

I’ve been talking about series fiction some lately in my work. So it dawns on me to address that this book is a series and I started mid-series. I didn’t really notice it was book four at all – the mystery is stand alone – though I realized while reading mid-way through that some of the characters’ back stories would be enhanced if I went back and read former books – which I definitely will now! It made me curious about the life of the protagonist prior, but it didn’t hinder the story plot any for me. Honestly, I’d probably move on to book five first though, which I think also comes out this year, to continue on from this one to see the progression.

I didn’t even guess who the murderer was at all, and often I do; I didn’t know until the reveal in the final pages! She had so many good twists and turns in thought. It was well-written, and it flowed like the smoothest pot of tea. It didn’t lull or get bogged down in details or character ramblings or rabbit holes. It used the art of deflection without really taking us out of the story. It kept a quick pace and moved along well.

And yet, with the swiftness of the plot, the characters were so fully developed I felt as if I knew all of them! I look forward to getting to know some of them more, too. I really like the protagonist Eve, and the author’s method into making her an accidental “investigator” is priceless! An obituary writer who interviews friends and family is quite unlike something I’ve read, but a great segway into a classic “sleuth.” Definitely for fans who like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple but want a more modern mystery read with a slightly younger (middle-aged) protagonist.

As well, her descriptions are lush and vivid, but not overdrawn. We can visualize easily, simply, but with depth. That takes the skill of a very talented and seasoned writer. I enjoyed the imagery immensely.

The verdict is: loved it! 

Editorial notes: As a working editor, I usually have a lot of developmental notes, mental or otherwise, on books I read. I really have nothing faulty to say about this book from an editing perspective, whether developmental or otherwise. It’s about as good as they come.

Where received: I purchased this book for myself as a pleasure read. I kinda want the whole set in paperback.

I am falling in love with Bookoutre books!

Mystery at the Old Mill, About –

When the calm of Saxford St Peter is disrupted by a deadly fire at the Old Mill, amateur sleuth Eve Mallow finds herself investigating a most surprising mystery!

Everyone in Saxford St Peter is desperate to know more about Harry Tennant, the newcomer who owns the Old Mill. He usually keeps himself to himself, but he’s finally invited the villagers round for drinks, and Eve Mallow isn’t the only one looking forward to having some questions answered.

But two days before the party, a terrible fire sweeps through the mill, and Harry is found dead. When Eve passes the burned remains of his beautiful house, she can’t resist the call to investigate. Especially when it turns out quiet, charming Harry was living a double life as the famous advice writer Pippa Longford. Eve has to wonder what revelations were contained in the letters he received… and whether one of them was worth killing for.

Accompanied by her reliable dachshund sidekick Gus, Eve starts digging. She soon realises Harry was at the centre of a web of lives – and lies. There’s an uncle desperate to inherit, two women who thought they were his one and only, not to mention everyone who shared their darkest secrets with him. Was one of those strangers much closer to home than Harry knew? And can Eve untangle the truth before she finds herself face to face with a killer?

A completely charming page-turner, perfect for fans of Faith Martin, Agatha Christie and Betty Rowlands.

Clare Chase, Biography –

Clare Chase writes classic mysteries. Her aim is to take readers away from it all via some armchair sleuthing in atmospheric locations.

Her debut novel was shortlisted for Novelicious’s Undiscovered Award, as well as an EPIC award post-publication, and was chosen as a Debut of the Month by LoveReading. Murder on the Marshes (Tara Thorpe 1) was shortlisted for an International Thriller Writers award.

Like her heroines, Clare is fascinated by people and what makes them tick. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked in settings as diverse as Littlehey Prison and the University of Cambridge, in her home city. She’s lived everywhere from the house of a lord to a slug-infested flat and finds the mid-terrace she currently occupies a good happy medium.

As well as writing, Clare loves family time, art and architecture, cooking, and of course, reading other people’s books.

You can find Clare’s website and blog at http://www.clarechase.com

Purchase –

Eve Mallow Series on Amazon

Or request at your favorite local indie store in the UK or US. At the time of this post, I could find any of this series on bookshop.org, a great place to order books with proceeds going to indie bookstores.

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Mayhem in Margaux is Another Great Cozy Winemaker Detective Mystery from French Duo


Mayhem in Margaux, by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, is another great episode from the television series airing in France, and in the line of novels based on the shows, featuring the winemaker detective Ben Cooker, his sidekick Virgile, and other members of his friends and family. I’ve not seen the episode of course, but I just read the book.

In this novel, which is number six, it’s even more personal for Ben. The book takes right off with the mystery without much delay other than for setting the scene. As always, it’s a cozy mystery full of beautiful scenery of France and mouth watering descriptions of delectable food and wine. An added plus in this edition is that we also visually tour several wine estates.

Action ensues when a car accident occurs, almost killing Ben’s daughter, Margaux, who has come from New York to visit her family in France. But someone in the car is murdered, and so Ben and Virgile set out to find why. In addition to this mystery, there is also the underlying issue with the vintners at the vineyards, which are having difficulty enduring the heat wave. The heat could cause them to lose their vines. Both of these issues within the book are related and you’ll have to enjoy the book to see how it all intertwines as I don’t want to give away any spoilers. These books are little pocket sized quick reads and perfect for an evening at home with a glass of your favorite wine.

The characterization of Ben is ever increasing, as we get to know him in more connective fashion, as well as with this book, his family members too. We meet Marguax for the first time, as well get to know his other immediate family on a more intimate level. I appreciate that. The authors filled this book well, for its size, with a well-rounded mystery plot and background character development that left me fulfilled and entertained. They kept me guessing until the later chapters and perked my interest in the mystery.

I’m interested to see where the next book takes us, especially in regards to his relationship with Virgile. I still think the wine detective series is a unique and fun idea and look forward to continuing on in reading the rest of the series.

Mayhem in Margaux

Release date: May 14, 2015
at Le French Book

153 pages

ISBN: 978-1939474384

Website | Goodreads

Mayhem in Margaux, Synopsis~

It’s summer in Bordeaux. There’s a heat wave, the vineyards are suffering, vintners are on edge, and wine expert Benjamin Cooker’s daughter is visiting. A tragic car accident draws the Winemaker Detective and his assistant Virgile into a case where the stakes are very personal, and they uncover the dirty secrets hiding behind some of Bordeaux’s finest grand cru classé wines from Margaux. [provided by the publisher]

An episode in a long successful French mysteries series that is a hit television series now in its fourth season
and attracting an audience of over 4 million. The series is a huge success in France, Belgium and Switzerland.

Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, Biographies~


Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, wine lover and music lover respectively, came up with the idea for the Winemaker Detective series while sharing a meal, with a bottle of Château Gaudou 1996, a red wine from Cahors with smooth tannins and a balanced nose.

About the Translator~

Translator Sally Pane studied French at State University of New York Oswego and the Sorbonne before receiving her Masters Degree in French Literature from the University of Colorado. She has translated several titles in this series.
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You can enter the global giveaway by clicking on the entry form below or on any other book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below too.


Visit each blogger on the tour and tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the tour will give you five (5) extra entries each time! (Just follow the directions on the entry-form)

Global giveaway open internationally:
Two (2) US residents will win a print copy of this book!
Three (3) residents of any country will receive a digital copy!

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Filed under Book Reviews

Interview with Gigi Pandian on her Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series + Review of Quicksand!


Today, I have a review of Gigi Pandian’s Quicksand, plus an exclusive, entertaining interview with Pandian and a link to a tour wide giveaway option below. Enjoy your weekend!

Review ~

I was entranced by the covers in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series, as soon as I first heard about Quicksand and realized it was the third book in the series. So that said, I haven’t read the first book, Artifact, or the second book, Pirate Vishnu yet, though their covers and blurbs entice me! I did read Quicksand for review, though, so let’s start there by saying that I didn’t feel too lost in reading only it, though as in any series with the same lead protagonist, I’m sure it’s always better to read them all for extra connectivity to character(s). Yet, the mysteries themselves in each book are standalone.

Jaya, the main female lead and historian, receives a letter from Lane, an old love interest she met previously and fell for hard, with a plane ticket to France enclosed and a request for her to meet him there. She goes against her better judgement and is talked into helping him steal something from the Louvre. There is a double mystery, one solved early on, in which Jaya put together clues to figure out the stolen item, and one later, in which witty, determined, and intelligent Jaya helps to stop one enormous archaeological theft. Of course, she’s helped by sidekick Lane and an old magician, Sébastien. Much of this story takes place on the island of Mont Saint Michel, which is an interesting fortress located off the coast of Normandy, France. I thought the setting was fun and ingenious.

Pandian writes well-researched historical mysteries that intertwine many cool places into a suspense mystery and an action-filled adventure. I have heard her described as being similar to Elizabeth Peters, one of my favorite authors, and yet, I feel that Pandian writes with even more flow, flair, magic, suspense, and the ability to hold a higher level of interest for modern readers of all ages. This book would appeal to teenage readers as well as adults for its clean romance and zippy action. It’s like Tomb Raider meets The Librarians or a female version of the Young Indiana Jones. Her magical elements make her story even more unique and on top of all that she plots in twists and turns to keep us on our toes.

Jaya and Lane are well-developed characters. Jaya is a very courageous lead and I could fully engage with her. However, I also enjoyed her characterization of the French magician in this story! He added an extra element to the story. As well, the villain in this story, North, was entertaining and balanced out the cast.

Overall, I can fondly say that Pandian’s Quicksand had some of all the major elements of a book to love. I can’t wait to go back and read the others, plus anything else that she writes in the future. This book was a captivating, energized ride to historical and cultural places ripe with mystery and suspense. Pandian’s characters seem like old friends more than just mere characters on a page.


Hi Gigi, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It’s a pleasure to have you here, in conjunction with the release of Quicksand, your third book in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series. I see you’ve been busy promoting, attending conferences, and accepting awards. Congratulations on your success!

Gigi: Thank you! I was so surprised to be awarded the Rose Award at Left Coast Crime last month for Pirate Vishnu, the book in the series that comes before Quicksand. This coming week I’m headed to Malice Domestic, the big convention for traditional mysteries.

Erin: You’re a woman to be admired. I want to learn more about your commitment to writing and your books. You seem like someone who would love to get lost in travel and a good adventure, like me!

Let’s sit for a moment and relax in my cozy library. You can take your seat and I’ll put on some tea? What kind of tea is your favorite? Sugar and cream?

 I’ll also bring out some sweets. Can’t talk books without sweets!

Gigi: Unsweetened mint green tea is my favorite. It goes wonderfully with any type of chocolate!

Erin: Tea is poured and sweets are for the taking, don’t be shy. Let’s get started with some questions. You first started out pursuing a life in academics, but then realized you’d rather write. How and why so? What helped you come to that decision? Did growing up with cultural anthropologists as parents help mold your desire to write adventure/mystery stories?

Gigi: You guessed correctly. Traveling with my parents as a kid, I made up grand adventures while they conducted research. Those travels and their influence helped me a storyteller from a young age.

As an adult, academia wasn’t as satisfying as I imagined it would be. I should have realized it sooner, because all of my college electives were creative pursuits (writing, art, photography), but I never imagined I could have a creative career. I left a PhD program and began writing a novel while attending art school. I’m so glad I followed my heart, because now I make a living being creative.

Erin: Did you have the idea for the Jaya Jones series immediately and what was the inspiration you used when you began writing the first book, Artifact. How did you take off at the gate with construction of the plot? Did you have in mind a series from the start?

Gigi: I knew it would be a series, and that the books would be puzzle plot mysteries set all around the world with plenty of adventure a romance – the type of book I love to read. Beyond that, it took many years to figure out exactly what my own unique voice was.

Erin: You must have had some success with self-publishing Artifact, and I did see it was Suspense Magazine’s “Best of 2012,” because you then obtained a publishing deal for it, and the rest of your series, with Henery Press. How did that all come together? What kind of success does an author need to show on their own for a publisher to pick up on the book?

Gigi: Every writer’s journey is different, but if you follow your heart and don’t rush the process, I believe you’ll find the right bath for you. I was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant (a grant for unpublished mystery writers) for Artifact back when it was a work in progress. That’s what made me take my writing seriously – and then I had to learn how to write a good book! Two years later, I thought the book was in good shape, and I found an agent quickly. However, she had trouble selling the book; it doesn’t fit neatly into one sub-genre, so big presses were wary.

When my agent was getting ready to pitch the book to smaller presses, which are often more open to taking books that don’t fit genre lines, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was only 36, and I didn’t know what would happen, and I needed to be in control of something in my life. I decided to work with an editor (every writer needs one, and if you’re with a publisher, the publisher supplies an editor) and self-publish the book. I put a lot of work into it to do it professionally, including making Advance Reader Copies so I could get trade reviews, and it was worth it. As you mentioned, Artifact was well-received, leading Henery Press to become interested in the series.

I was getting ready to self-publish Pirate Vishnu, and Henery Press requested a copy of the new book. They said it was even better than Artifact, and that’s when they offered me a 3-book deal for the series. So the most important factor was still the quality of the book, but getting great reviews and putting myself out there professionally is what put me on Henery’s radar.

Erin: They must have been correct about your book series, because the next book after Artifact, which was Pirate Vishnu, won an award (Left Coast Crime Rose Award). What do professionals have to say about your series? What makes it similar but different from other books on the market? Who is your target audience?

Gigi: I’ve been thrilled to receive some wonderful reviews, including many that compare my stories to my favorite author, Elizabeth Peters (such a thrill!). Most professional reviewers call the book as a cozy mystery, but readers who aren’t in the industry characterize my books in many ways. The series is definitely cozy reader friendly (no violence or sex or bad language on the page, and no dark endings) but it’s also genre-bending. It’s a romantic multicultural adventure puzzle plot mystery.

Erin: I’ve just been able to read Quicksand, and am itching to go back and read the first two, but I’d like you to tell my readers, what makes it a treasure hunt and what makes it a mystery? Is it a true who-dun-it or more of a mission-based mystery?

Gigi: The combination of a quest and a whodunit is what creates my style of books. I’d say the series is an equal mix of adventure and mystery. They’re all treasure hunts that concern present-day crimes linked to historical treasures relating to India’s colonial history.

Erin: In all honestly, should you read the books in order from the start, or are they stand-alone? What might a reader miss if he/she doesn’t read the first book, Artifact?

Gigi: The plots stand alone completely, but the character relationships progress. So if a reader is drawn to a particular adventure, then it works just fine to read an individual book. But if you want to follow the love triangle, in particular, it’s best to read the series in order.

Erin: How did you construct your lead character? Did you outline her or did she have a voice of her own? What traits did you give her and why?

Gigi: In some ways Jaya Jones is based on my own life. I have one Indian parent and one American parent. It’s easiest to start writing when you writer what you know, but I also wanted to make sure Jaya didn’t become me. I’m tall (6 feet tall in heels), so as a jumping-off point to make sure I never wrote too much of myself into her, I made Jaya only 5 feet tall.

Erin: Besides your historian Jaya Jones, what other characters have been your favorites to write into your book? Why?

Gigi: In Quicksand, 90-year-old retired stage magician Sébastien was a blast to write! I love characters who surprise me.

Erin: Is this third book, Quicksand, the end of this series? Why or why not?

Gigi: The series is continuing! I’ve got so many adventures in mind for Jaya and friends. So far her adventures have taken her from San Francisco to Scotland, India, and France. I’m toying with an idea for Italy next…

Erin: You just published a new book, The Accidental Alchemist, in January 2015, with Midnight Ink. It sounds very inviting! Is this adult, YA, or both? What’s the book about? Will it be a series, too?

Quicksand Accidental-Alchemist-Gigi-Pandian-cover-w-text-WEB-mediumGigi: The Accidental Alchemist is a paranormal cozy series, but I’m hearing from lots of booksellers that it’s YA-friendly (so is the Jaya Jones treasure hunt series). The series is about a centuries-old female alchemist and her impish gargoyle sidekick who was accidentally brought to life by a French stage magician. It takes place in Portland, Oregon, and the gargoyle is a food-snob chef. Yup, it’s a humorous, lighthearted series.

Erin: Who does your amazing cover art and fun extras, like the cards and games? I love it all! And they are great attractions for the book. Even if they aren’t YA, you sure did grab my daughter’s attention too.

Gigi: Lovely! I went to art school, so I have a lot of fun designing my promotional materials. (Readers can win recipe postcards – my book covers on one side with recipes from each of the countries where the books take place on the other – as part of the grand prize of this blog tour.)

Erin: I understand that you also like to read and write “locked room mysteries.” Can you tell us what exactly ARE locked room mysteries, why you like them, and some of your favorites? Also, share with us any you’ve written that you think readers would be interested in. I’m curious!

Gigi: Locked-room mysteries are impossible crimes. The classic example is a dead man found in a room locked from the inside, but he’s alone and there’s no gun.

John Dickson Carr was the master of the genre. I was honored to have my locked-room story The Hindi Houdini nominated for Agatha and Macavity awards.

Erin: What has been your favorite place to travel and why? Where do you want to go that you haven’t yet?

Gigi: Scotland and India. My first trip abroad was a summer in Scotland with my mom when I was 10 years old, and it captured my imagination and will always hold a special place in my heart.

My dad is from India but has lived in the United States for most of his adult life, so it’s always special to travel to India with him.

I’d like to spend more time in Southeast Asia. I backpacked through Europe after college, but in Asia I’ve only traveled throughout India.

Quicksand 1985-Gigi-with-a-bagpiper-by-Loch-Ness-Scotland-webres-textQuicksand India-2010-Gigi-in-Mysore-webres-text

Erin: Oh, Gigi, you’re adorable! And by Loch Ness! One of the top places on my bucket list! Do you work in any of your own travels into your books? If so, where? If not (or in addition), how do you choose your locations?

Gigi: All my books are set in places I’ve been. Sometimes I’ve visited a place already when I have the idea for a book, and sometimes it’s a great excuse to take a trip. For Quicksand, I’d been to France before, but I hadn’t been to all of the locations where I wanted to set the book. It was a perfect excuse to take a research trip.


Erin: I’m a foodie, so I always ask, what have you eaten somewhere that you dream of eating again?

Gigi: There are so many restaurants in Paris I’d love to visit again, both for the food and the atmosphere.

Erin: I know you value life in a way that “each day counts.” How has this led you to write faster and publish more often? How does this help you in the creation of your goals?

Gigi: Most definitely! After surviving breast cancer, I’ve held onto the feeling of wanting to live life to the fullest. I love storytelling, so by doing it mainly for myself, rather than worrying about what other people think, I’ve been able to write more quickly because I don’t second-guess my gut instincts.

Erin: What advice do you have for other writers when it comes to make writing a priority? What tips did you use starting out that helped you create such success with your books?

Gigi: Set goals and stick to them. But I know that’s easier said than done. That’s why I recommend trying NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), challenging yourself to write a 50,000-word draft of a novel in 30 days. NaNoWriMo is what helped me finish a first draft of my first novel, because it allowed me to let go of thinking my writing had to be good. But nobody’s writing is good at first. The point is to get your ideas down on paper. You can edit the words later, but finishing a project is the first serious step in becoming a writer.

My other trick is to set a writing time and stick to it. I write three mornings a week, because that’s what fits into my schedule, and I make sure those chunks of time are sacred. Even if there’s no food in the house, or a big pile of laundry, writing comes first during those dedicated writing times.

Erin: Who were your favorite authors or favorite books growing up? Which ones inspired your writing? What types of mysteries do you read now for pleasure?

Gigi: Elizabeth Peters and Aaron Elkins were the mystery writers I read as a teenager that made me want to become a writer. Their books are full of mystery, history, and adventure in settings across the globe. I read mostly within the mystery genre, but all types of mysteries from cozies to thrillers. (You can see what I’m reading on Goodreads.)

Erin: I’ve gathered that you have an obsession for gargoyles? How did this start? What’s a favorite that you’ve spotted? What is one you hope to see but haven’t yet?

Gigi: I’ve been photographing gargoyles since I was a kid. (Seriously, I have some awful photos I took on a 110mm film camera from that first trip to Scotland when I was 10!) I love mysteries, as you may have gathered, and gargoyles are so mysterious. That’s why my new series features a stone gargoyle who was accidentally brought to life. It’s been a lot of fun to hear from readers who love the gargoyle, Dorian.

Here are a couple of my favorite gargoyle photos, and there are many more on my Gargoyle Girl blog.

Quicksand westminster gargoyle 1997 blue square - webres - by Gigi Pandian GARGOYLEQuicksand-Notre-Dame-gargoyle-Gigi-Pandian-webres

Erin: It has been so much fun chatting with you, Gigi! I look forward to reading many more of your books and following your writing! As a writer myself, you are very inspiring. Feel free to stop back anytime! I’ll make more tea, or maybe a smoothie next time!

Gigi: Thanks for inviting me to stop by! Your questions were a lot of fun.

Quicksand book coverQuicksand: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery

(cozy mystery)

Release date: March 10, 2015
at Henery Press
280 pages

ISBN: 9781941962275


A thousand-year-old secret room. A sultan’s stolen treasure. A missing French priest. And an invitation to Paris to rekindle an old flame…

Historian Jaya Jones finds herself on the wrong side of the law during an art heist at the Louvre. To redeem herself, she follows clues from an illuminated manuscript that lead from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the quicksand-surrounded fortress of Mont Saint-Michel. With the help of enigmatic Lane Peters and a 90-year-old stage magician, Jaya delves into France’s colonial past in India to clear her name and catch a killer.

Gigi Pandian, Biography~

 Gigi PandianUSA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. After being dragged around the world during her childhood,
she tried to escape her fate when she left a PhD program for art school. But adventurous academics wouldn’t stay out of her head. Thus was born the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series (Artifact, Pirate Vishnu, and Quicksand).

Gigi’s debut mystery novel was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant and named a “Best of 2012” Debut Novel by Suspense Magazine. Her short fiction has been short-listed for Agatha and Macavity awards, and she also writes the new Accidental Alchemist mystery series.

She takes photos of gargoyles wherever she goes, and posts them on her Gargoyle Girl blog.

Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter

Subscribe to her newsletter

Visit her Gargoyle photography blog: http://www.gargoylegirl.com

Buy the book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Itunes | Google Play


You can enter the global giveaway here at the link below or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below too.


Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you five (5) extra entries each time [just follow the directions on the entry-form]!

Global giveaway open internationally:
1 winner will receive a print copy of the 3 books in the

Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries Series

plus a beautiful set of recipe cards matching the 3 books!

Yes, you got that right: 1 winner will win the 3 books + recipe cards!

Click on the tour graphic below to follow along with more information on the tour!

Quicksand banner


Filed under Book Reviews, Q and A with Authors

Cozy British Mystery Series by Helen Smith Offers New Female Heroine

Today, we are featuring London-based author Helen Smith and her novellas with a short review and an exclusive interview. If you read through the post, there will also be a giveaway for one person to win both novellas!

Invitation to Die, the first full-length novel in her Emily Castles mystery series, will be published by Thomas & Mercer in 2013. “To introduce as many people as possible to Emily, I’m doing a blog tour with the previous two novellas in the series, Three Sisters and Showstoppers,” author Helen Smith said. 

I know that I will certainly want to read her new full-length novel, and many more in the series, after reading these first two novellas.  These nicely priced e-book novellas are a great way to get started. Make sure you read Three Sisters first to be introduced to Emily.

Helen Smith Talks About the Emily Castles Mysteries~

Emily Castles is a twenty-six-year-old Londoner who lives in Brixton, south London, where I live. The London that you’ll find in the Emily Castles Mysteries has familiar locations and landmarks. But it has a village feel that is typical in cozy mystery books (and not very typical of a big city like London): neighbors know each other and help each other out.

I started out reading Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Arthur Conan Doyle, and I go back to their stories time and again, both on the page and on TV and film. Miss Marple has to be one of my all-time favorite characters in a book! More recently, I have enjoyed mysteries written by Charlaine Harris, Alexander McCall Smith and M C Beaton.

With the Emily Castles Mysteries, I wanted to create stories that use some of the enduringly popular ingredients from the golden age of British crime writing. But I have set them in the present-day, so there’s a little urban grit mixed in with the fun. Emily herself, with her dimples and her dark brown hair, her sweet nature, her good humor and her love of solving mysteries, is partly based on my daughter, who is around the same age. Unlike my daughter, Emily will never get older… only a little wiser, perhaps, and a little more adept at sleuthing as the series develops.

Like all my books, the Emily Castles Mysteries feature strong, interesting female characters, and plenty of funny lines. But unlike the other books, there’s no profanity. There are no drug references or sexual references. These are clean, comic mysteries that can be enjoyed by readers of any age. They’re slightly camp and very British. They’re not to be taken too seriously. I hope readers will enjoy them and keep coming back for more.

three sisters cover

Three Sisters Synopsis~

Twenty-six-year-old Londoner Emily Castles has been invited to a party in the big house at the end of her street. How could she know, as she left her house that evening, that she was making an appointment with death?

This is a 70-page comic mystery novella.

showstoppers cover

Showstoppers Synopsis~

When twenty-six-year-old Emily Castles helps out at a local stage school in London, she’s soon mixed up in murder. She teams up with eccentric philosophy professor Dr. Muriel to solve the case.

Showstoppers is a fast-paced 75-page novella.


Three Sisters and Showstoppers were stories that were fast-paced from the beginning, light-hearted, and complete with quirky British humor.  Smith’s mysteries were set-up with precise thought and executed with twists and turns that made them both very entertaining reads. I think that Emily Castles is the newest proverbial nosey eccentric character that British cozy mysteries are so popular for creating.

I chose to feature these books because I am a big fan of British mysteries and their subtle humor, clues, and spunky dialogue. Smith’s books delivered all this to me; they were the perfect ‘snuggle on my end of the couch with a cup of English Breakfast Tea’ type of mysteries. 

Anyone who is a fan of British mysteries will enjoy reading these novellas just in time for the first full-length Emily Castles Mystery to publish. This is one book series worth following as you’ll fall in love with Emily’s commentary, humor, and energy.  The character of Emily, as well as her supporting cast, will keep you wanting to make them a consistent part of your reading pursuits.

Purchase below by clicking on the links:

One winner will receive e-book copies of Three Sisters and Showstoppers by commenting on this blog or my Facebook post. Make sure that you leave your email with your comment or email me to hookofabook@hotmail.com. Anyone can enter up until 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 25!  Since it is an e-book, this is open internationally.
For an extra entry, please follow this blog and let me know!
Interview with Author Helen Smith~
Hello, Helen, and welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’d love for readers to get to know you a little better as I learn about you myself. Although I haven’t read any of your books yet besides your new novellas, I hear you’re a loved mystery writer and I do love my mysteries!

Hello, Erin. Thanks for inviting me here, and thanks for reading my novellas. I’m glad to hear you enjoy mysteries. I’m looking forward to answering your questions.

Let’s get started then!

Q: You live in London. Americans have a real obsession with anything British at the moment, but I’ve always had it. I was born there and my mom always enjoyed the culture so I grew up around it. In your opinion, why do you think that the words British and Mysteries always go hand in hand?

A: It’s funny, isn’t it, because here in Britain we’re crazy about America and anything American. I think that people are excited to read new British mysteries because the writers in the Golden Age of mysteries were British. Most of us have read at least a few Agatha Christie novels and remember the joy of moving from reading children’s books to books that had been written for adults. I really hope that readers will enjoy my mysteries; they’re set in present-day Britain and they’re a lot of fun.

Q: I read that you’ve traveled around in your lifetime and done some interesting jobs such as being a magician’s assistant! What do you love most about the UK?

A: Yes, I traveled all over the place when I was younger but now I’m settled back in London. I love the English countryside, with its patchwork green fields, rolling hills and thatched cottages. When you’ve been abroad and marveled at how gorgeous another country is, it’s still lovely to come back to London on a plane and see the familiar English countryside get closer as you approach the city through the clouds.

Q: How did you get started in writing? Have you always loved it?

A: I always loved reading and that made me want to be a writer when I grew up. I started writing my first novel when I was about twenty-nine. Around that time I had a short play broadcast on the radio and that was my first professional success as a writer, but I pressed on with the novel rather than writing more radio plays because I wanted to finish it and get it published.

Q: How did you begin the process of being published?

A: Once the book was finished I looked for an agent. There’s a book called the Writers and Artists’ Handbook that lists the names and addresses of agents and publishers here in the UK and in the US. You just have to go through it and find out which agents accept unsolicited manuscripts in the kind of genre that you write. One of the biggest agencies in London took me on as a client after reading what I had sent them.

Q: What advice do you have for other new women writers?

A: Just keep going, you’ll get there.

Q: Do you have a schedule or process to get your writing accomplished?

A: I try and write a thousand words a day. I can write more when it’s going well. Some days I write much less. I do find that real life gets in the way. I’d like to be able to do nothing but write. But it’s impossible, isn’t it?

Q: What is your new upcoming release? Can you tell us about it?

A: The first full-length Emily Castles mystery will be published later this year. It’s called Invitation to Die and it’s set at a romance authors’ convention in Bloomsbury, London, where I live.

Q: When will it be available?

A: The publication date will probably be some time in October 2013.

Q: Why did you decide to do the novellas?

A: I had the idea for a fun character who would solve mysteries in present-day London and I wanted to try her out in a few situations. I remembered that the Sherlock Holmes stories worked very well at short-story length, and it seemed a good way to start with Emily Castles. Short fiction works well for ebooks because it can be published at a reasonable price.

Q: What other novels are you known for? Can you tell us about them?

A: My first two novels, Alison Wonderland and Being Light, feature a private detective called Alison Temple who works for an all-female detective agency in London. They’re not really detective fiction, though. They’re off-beat comedies. The third novel, The Miracle Inspector, is a dystopian novel set in England in the near future. It tells the story of a young married couple, Lucas and Angela, who try to escape from London… with disastrous consequences.

Q: What is your favorite hobby besides writing and reading?

A: I like knitting, though I don’t do much of it these days.

Q: Where can readers connect with you about upcoming books?

A: Please sign up here for an email alert when a new book is published: http://eepurl.com/ssbf5

Thank you so very much for stopping by today and chatting with us. We wish you the best with your upcoming work and hope to feature you again!

Thanks, Erin. I enjoyed answering the questions. I’d like to wish you all the best with your writing, too.

 Helen Smith, Biography~Helen-Smith

Helen Smith is a member of the Writers Guild of Great Britain, The Crime Writers Association and English PEN. She travelled the world when her daughter was small, doing all sorts of strange jobs to support them both – from cleaning motels to working as a magician’s assistant – before returning to live in London where she wrote her first novel, which was published by Gollancz (part of the Hachette Group). She writes novels, children’s books, poetry, plays and screenplays, and was the recipient of an Arts Council of England Award. She likes dancing. but she doesn’t like driving. She also likes knitting.

Invitation to Die, the first full-length novel in her Emily Castles mystery series, will be published by Thomas & Mercer in 2013.  She’s the author of Alison Wonderland, Being Light, The Miracle Inspector and the Emily Castles Mystery Series, as well as several stage plays.

Find out more on Helen’s blog: http://www.emperorsclothes.co.uk/ or at the links below:

To read more on the tour with Helen Smith, click on the Blog Tour Button below:
Showstopper tour


Filed under Book Reviews, Q and A with Authors