Tag Archives: mysteries to read

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

5 Star Mystery: Trial Junkies by Robert Gregory Browne. Enter to win!

Looking for a crime mystery drama to fuel your e-reader for the summer? I have just the book for you full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing: Trial Junkies, by Robert Gregory Browne.  Keep reading for a chance to WIN IT!! All you have to do is leave a comment to enter to win with your e-mail or way to contact you.

A few days ago my fiance Tim (www.timbusbey.wordpress.com) wrote a FIVE STAR review for Robert Gregory Browne’s newest thriller Trial Junkies.  You can read on to see his review and learn about Trial Junkies right here, then leave me a short comment to be ENTERED TO WIN a FREE E-COPY of Trial Junkies by Robert Browne!

Book Review – Trial Junkies by Robert Gregory Browne


by Tim Busbey, www.timbusbey.wordpress.com 

Penname Press/Braun Haus Media

Available now

The quote on the cover of Robert Browne’s new book Trial Junkies says, “A mystery I dare you to solve.” Well, I always love a challenge, especially when it comes to solving a mystery.

Whenever I watch shows like “Monk” or “Psych,” I always try to solve the mystery before the grand reveal at the end of the show. I’ve watched enough of these shows by this point in my life that I often have figured out the culprit halfway through the show. So with that in mind, I eagerly started Browne’s new self-published book.

With my busy schedule working a full-time job, commuting three hours a day and coaching both of my daughters’ softball teams, I don’t have as much time for reading as I would like. However, Trial Junkies was so fast-paced and so well-written that once I had started, I couldn’t stop turning the pages and I had finished the book in no time. Did I solve the mystery before the end? I’ll get to that in a minute.

Ethan “Hutch” Hutchinson is a washed-up actor who returns to his Chicago roots when his former college sweetheart who he hasn’t seen in years is found murdered. Hutch reluctantly reunites with the rest of their group of friends at her funeral. When another member of the group is arrested for the murder, Hutch and his friends band together to find the real killer before their friend is convicted. The case takes multitudes of twists and turns as the police and Hutch follow the breadcrumb trail of clues until Hutch at last discovers the horrible secret hiding in plain sight. To say any more about the story would ruin the surprises for you.

Did I solve the mystery before the big reveal? Not entirely. But I loved trying! Throughout the twist and turns, I was able to partially figure out what was going on, but not 100%. In spite of that, I was left feeling very satisfied by the ending. Sometimes, a surprise ending in a mystery feels like it came from out of left field, or, at the other extreme, it is too completely telegraphed to actually be a surprise. This falls perfectly in the middle, with just enough clues to give you a taste of what is coming without completely letting the whole murderous cat out of the bag.

Trial Junkies is a pulse-pounding thriller that is populated by real characters. Browne’s snappy dialogue and masterful storytelling makes the characters come alive. You will quickly feel as if you know Hutch and his friends and will want to fight along with them to discover the truth.

Browne has said this is the first book in a series and I can’t wait for the next one. I am eager to see what twist and turns Browne has in store for us in book two.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Trial Junkies a 5.

Book available for purchase at:  Amazon

***********************************************************************************************************And Don’t forget to COMMENT to win!! You get ONE entry for that. If you’d like a second entry, just follow my blog and let me know in the comments. Thank you Robert for the giveaway!!


Filed under Book Reviews, Guest Posts