Book Review: Murder on the Left Bank by Cara Black

Murder on the Left Bank
An Aimée Leduc Investigation #18
Cara Black
Soho Crime, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-61695-927-2
Hardcover

When a dying man shows up in Eric’s offices asking for help to right wrongs of the past by delivering a ledger to authorities, against his better judgment Eric agrees to help. Really his task is pretty simple. He would have his nephew deliver the ledger to the designated person and that would be the extent of his involvement. But from the beginning things go wrong. The nephew was on his way to meet his girlfriend so instead of making the delivery, he hid the ledger and went to meet his girlfriend.  They were attacked and the nephew was killed. The room was tossed, but the ledger wasn’t found,  Now Eric wants his nephew’s murders found and the notebook delivered.

Aimée Leduc has more than enough to keep her busy between raising her daughter as a single parent and running her private investigation business. After her father’s death, Aimée pledged to stick to cyber crimes and security problems, but when Eric Besson shows up in her office seeking help locating a missing ledger which may contain information that would implicate her now deceased father she is drawn into another dangerous case.

Aimée tracks down the surviving girlfriend and numerous other people who might have insight as to the ledger’s location. Before long, she realizes she is being followed putting everyone she speaks to in danger. It was when it became clear that her own daughter was now fair game to those seeking the ledger that Aimée agrees to have her daughter’s father and Aimée’s estranged mother whisk her daughter away for safety.

There is a high body count in the book but in the end, things work out and Aimée finds out a little bit more about her father’s life in the police.

This was one of my favorite books in the series so far.

Aimée Leduc returns in Murder on the Left Bank, the eighteenth book in the series.  Readers who have followed Aimée from the beginning must be pleased with how the series has evolved over the years keeping the stories fresh. For readers who have never sampled the series, Murder on the Left Bank is a fine place to start. There is a back story, but readers are given enough to not feel left behind.  Either way, enjoy!

Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St.Clair, June 2018.

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Book Review: The Body in the Ballroom by R.J. Koreto

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Title: The Body in the Ballroom
Series: An Alice Roosevelt Mystery #2
Author: R.J. Koreto
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: June 12, 2018

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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The Body in the Ballroom
An Alice Roosevelt Mystery #2
R.J. Koreto
Crooked Lane Books, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-68331-577-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

President Teddy Roosevelt’s daring daughter, Alice, leaps into action to exonerate a friend accused of poisoning a man just about everyone hated.

Alice Roosevelt, the brilliant, danger-loving daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, has already risked an assassin’s bullet to solve one murder. She never expected to have to sleuth another, but she’d never pass up the opportunity, either. Anything to stave off boredom.

And such an opportunity presents itself when Alice is invited to a lavish ball. The high-society guests are in high spirits as they imbibe the finest wines. But one man, detested by nearly all the partygoers, quaffs a decidedly deadlier cocktail. An African-American mechanic, who also happens to be a good friend of former Rough Rider-turned-Secret Service Agent Joseph St. Clair, is suspected of the murder-by-poison, but Alice is sure he’s innocent and is back on the scene to clear his name.

From downtown betting parlors to uptown mansions, Alice and Agent St. Clair uncover forbidden romances and a financial deal that just might change the world. But neither Alice nor her would-be protector may survive the case at hand in The Body in the Ballroom, R. J. Koreto’s gripping second Alice Roosevelt mystery.

The irrepressible Alice Roosevelt is back and, if her father or anyone else thought she would settle down after her adventure regarding the McKinley assassination, they were very wrong. When Secret Service agent Joseph St. Clair is re-assigned to Alice as her bodyguard, he first finds her practice shooting a Smith & Wesson she’s not supposed to have and not doing it very well; he knows at once that his charge hasn’t settled down in the least.

Alice and St. Clair head to New York City and the chaperonage of Alice’s Aunt Anna Cowles for a round of high society social events and, when a guest who’s pretty much universally hated is poisoned at a ball, Alice can’t resist the opportunity to snoop. This time, St. Clair is not entirely averse to her activities because a friend, Peter Carlyle, has been accused of the murder and St. Clair is sure he’s innocent.

In a way, this episode in Alice’s adventures is an homage to the large immigrant population that existed in New York City at the turn of the century and a look at racial relations as well. At times, the solving of the murder takes a bit of a back seat but, for the most part, The Body in the Ballroom is a nice blend of history, social injustice and criminal investigation that I enjoyed very much. Alice and St. Clair have become one of my favorite crime-solving duos and their third book can’t come too soon.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2018.

An Excerpt from The Body in the Ballroom

President Roosevelt and I were just finishing out talk when a moment later, the office door opened, and Mr. Wilkie, the Secret Service director, walked in. I stood to greet him.

“St. Clair. Glad to see you’re back. Very pleased with the way it went in St. Louis.” He turned to the president. “Have you spoken to him yet, sir?”

“Yes, and he’s agreed.” Wilkie looked relieved, too.

“Very good then. If you’re done, sir, I’ll take St. Clair to her. My understanding is that arrangements have been made for Miss Roosevelt to leave tomorrow afternoon.”

“Exactly. We’re all done then. St. Clair, thanks again. And I’ll be up in the near future, so I expect to see you again soon.” We shook hands, and I followed Mr. Wilkie out the door.

“Is she smoking on the roof again, sir?” I asked. That’s what happened the first time I met Alice in the White House.

He grimaced. “No. My understanding is that she is in the basement indulging a new hobby of hers. But you’ll see.” He led me downstairs, and that’s when I heard the unmistakable sounds of gunfire. Mr. Wilkie didn’t seem worried, however. “Miss Roosevelt somehow got hold of a pistol and has set up her own private firing range in a storage room. We launched an investigation to figure out how Miss Roosevelt obtained such a weapon but were unable to reach a formal conclusion, I’m sorry to say.”

No wonder they wanted me back.

And just as when Mr. Wilkie had sent me to get Alice off the roof, he once again cleaned his glasses on his handkerchief, shook my hand, wished me luck, and departed.

I heard one more shot, and that was it. She was probably reloading. The sound came from behind a double door at the end of the hallway. I carefully opened it, and she didn’t notice at first.

I watched her concentrating on the pistol, her tongue firmly between her teeth as she carefully focused on reloading. It was an old Smith & Wesson single-action, and she was damn lucky she hadn’t blown her own foot off. She was shooting at a mattress propped against the far wall, and from the wide scattering of holes, it was clear her marksmanship needed a lot of practice.

“A little more patience, Miss Alice. You’re jerking the trigger; that’s why you keep shooting wild. And that gun’s too big for you.”

It was a pleasure to see the look of shock and joy on her face. She just dropped the gun onto a box and practically skipped to me, giving me a girlish hug. “Mr. St. Clair, I have missed you.” She looked up. “And I know you have missed me. They say you’re back on duty with me. We’re heading to New York tomorrow, and we’ll have breakfast together like we used to and walk to the East Side through Central Park and visit your sister Mariah.”

I couldn’t do anything but laugh. “We’ll do all that, Miss Alice. But I’m on probation from your aunt, so we have to behave ourselves. You have to behave yourself.”

“I always behave.” She waved her hand to show that the discussion had ended. “Now there must be a trick to loading revolvers because it takes me forever.”

“I’ll teach you. Someday.” I made sure the revolver was unloaded and stuck it in my belt. Then I scooped up the cartridges and dumped them in my pocket.

“Hey, that’s my revolver,” said Alice. “It took me a lot of work to get it.”

“You’re not bringing it to New York, that’s for sure, Miss Alice.”

She pouted. “I thought you’d relax a little after being in St. Louis.”

“And I thought you’d grow up a little being in Washington. You want to walk into the Caledonia like a Wild West showgirl? Anyway, don’t you have some parties to go to up there?”

“Oh, very well. But promise me you’ll take me to a proper shooting range in New York and teach me how to load and fire your New Service revolver.”

“We’ll see. Meanwhile, if you don’t upset your family or Mr. Wilkie between now and our departure tomorrow, I’ll buy you a beer on the train.” That made her happy.

We walked upstairs as she filled me in on White House gossip.

“Oh, and I heard you were in a fast draw in St. Louis and gunned down four men.” She looked up at me curiously.

“A little exaggeration,” I said. I hadn’t killed anyone in St. Louis, hadn’t even fired my revolver, except for target practice.

“You didn’t kill anyone?” she asked, a little disappointed.

“No. No one.”

But then her face lit up. “Because your reputation proceeded you, and they knew there was no chance of outdrawing you.”

“That must be it,” I said.

“But look on the bright side,” she said, still full of cheer. “New York is a much bigger city. Maybe you’ll get a chance to shoot someone there.”

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Excerpt from The Body in the Ballroom by R.J. Koreto. Copyright © 2018 by R.J. Koreto. Reproduced with permission from R.J. Koreto. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

R.J. Koreto has been fascinated by turn-of-the-century New York ever since listening to his grandfather’s stories as a boy.

In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. He’s a graduate of Vassar College, and like Alice Roosevelt, he was born and raised in New York.

He is the author of the Lady Frances Ffolkes and Alice Roosevelt mysteries. He has been published in both Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. He also published a book on practice management for financial professionals.

With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

Catch up with R.J. Koreto on Website , Goodreads , Twitter , & Facebook !

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Book Review: Macbeth by Jo Nesbø

Macbeth
Jo Nesbø
Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
Hogarth Shakespeare, April 2018
ISBN 978-0-553-41905-4
Hardcover

Since Shakespeare’s Macbeth was first performed in 1606 it has been reenacted in many guises and venues.  For instance, Orson Welles staged the play in 1936 with an all-black cast.  Jo Nesbø’s Macbeth is the most recent of six books in the Hogarth Shakespeare series in which the play is retold by various authors.  However, this is the first time the tale has been written as a crime story, Nesbø’s forte as a top Scandinavian writer well-known for his noir fiction, especially the Harry Hole novels.  As the author notes, the play is one of his favorites and provides an outline for the novel, a tale of love, corruption and lust for power.

Set in a decaying unnamed town, abandoned by industry, ridden by drugs and unemployment, the story has at its heart Macbeth’s grab for power using his position on the police force and his pact with the drug lord, Hecate.  Coupled with his love, Lady, whose ambition for power even exceeds his, Macbeth murders his way to the top, becoming police commissioner and grabbing to become Mayor and complete control of the town.  It is a gruesome story that only Mr. Nesbø could write, with a force so powerful only a Bard could have written it.]

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, April 2018.

Book Review: The Eden Conspiracy by C.A. Gray

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Title: The Eden Conspiracy
Series: The Liberty Box #2
Author: C.A. Gray
Narrator: Melissa Williams
Publisher: Wanderlust Publishing
Publication Date: September 19, 2016

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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The Eden Conspiracy
The Liberty Box #2
C.A. Gray
Narrated by Melissa Williams
Wanderlust Publishing, September 2016
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

The refugee caves have been destroyed, and most of the refugees are dead. The Potentate now knows of their existence and will stop at nothing to wipe them out completely. He suspects that terrorist Jackson MacNamera is among them, as well as reporter Kate Brandeis’s fiancé, hacker Will Anderson – and probably therefore Kate herself. Now that the Potentate is aware of security threats, most of the strategies the rebels used to get back onto the grid before now no longer work. The Potentate knows the rebels are on foot, and he knows they were at the caves not long ago. They can’t get far.

The remaining rebels, among them Jackson and Kate, have Kate’s fiancé Will to thank for their survival: he arrived back from the dead and in the nick of time, bearing classified information about the Potentate’s plans to expand his influence internationally. But the remaining rebels and the Council cannot agree on whether their top priority should be spreading truth far and wide and freeing as many citizens from government control as possible, knowing that they will likely die in the process, or escaping to New Estonia, in hopes that they might live out the rest of their days in peace.

Kate, meanwhile, finds herself torn between Jackson and the fiancé she thought she lost, and between the damsel-in-distress she once was, and the rebel she believes she has always been underneath. Whether the other hunters will support her or no, she knows she must use her influence over the people of the Republic to tell them the truth, no matter the cost. But is she strong enough to withstand the government’s lies?

No one will ever accuse this book of suffering from sophomore slump, that’s for sure. After a successful opening in the first book, the action really ratchets up in The Eden Conspiracy and certain characters become more vivid plus I learned a lot more about the two factions.

I already knew that the Potentate and his minions exercise a sort of mind control over the people, brainwashing really, but here I learned that they can direct it at a particular person. Kate has bought into the resistance fullbore but that propels her into doing something rash, bringing herself some very unwanted attention but she shows an unexpected strength when that happens even while she distrusts herself and Jackson immensely.

Things go from bad to worse for the band of refugees but a small group splinters off to find a new sanctuary while Kate heads back home to enlist her brother Charlie’s help with a project. Unfortunately, government agents are soon in hot pursuit and whether Kate can accomplish her mission is in real doubt.

Kate and Jackson come into sharp focus in this part of the trilogy and she especially shows a lot of growth emotionally and physically, no longer the simpering wuss that she used to be. In fact, Will’s behavior towards her becomes much more annoying because she realizes how condescending he’s always been, perhaps warranted before she grew a backbone. Jackson, on the other hand, is the perfect man, to the point of being irritating at times (but he always redeems himself). Many of the characters from the first book kind of fade into the background but Kate’s brother and parents are prominent with her mother being as aggravating as she can be. Last but most certainly not least, the Potentate’s point of view comes into play and, now that he is is much more evident, his bad guy persona comes to the fore with chilling effect.

With the first book, I indicated that I thought the narrator was a bit lacking but I saw a lot of improvement in this second book. Ms. Williams really got into the story this time and there’s more life in her voice although I still think most characters’ voices are too much alike. That aside, I do enjoy listening to her.

All in all, this was a really good continuation of the story and I’m excited to now move on to the third, and last, book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2018.

About the Author

By day, C.A. Gray is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) with a primary care practice in Tucson, AZ, and she writes medical books under her real name (Dr. Lauren Deville). She lives with her husband, with whom she maintains a facetiously contentious movie review blog, and travels as often as they can get away. When not writing or seeing patients, she does yoga, drinks red wine while eating dark chocolate, and consumes audiobooks like there’s no tomorrow!

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreadsInstagram

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About the Narrator

Melissa lives with her family, including two dogs and a cat, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Denver, Colorado.

After having a corporate job for most of her life, and as a self-proclaimed introvert, she decided to leave corporate America to work from home. Voice overs had always tugged at her heart as something she would like to explore, so she attended some classes and landed with a company that taught her how to break in to the industry.

Loving to read, she explored the fast growing world of audiobooks and fell in love with it. She has ten audiobooks under her belt and is currently working on the 11th. Understanding that she should always be learning how to improve her skills, she is currently working with Sean Pratt.

When not talking to herself in a padded room, she can be found walking her dog, singing or fishing the Arkansas River.

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Play an excerpt here.

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Book Review: It’s All Your Fault by Paul Rudnick

It’s All Your Fault
Paul Rudnick
Scholastic Press, January 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-46428-4
Hardcover

You’ve all heard the expression ‘deer in the headlights.” Imagine a homeschooled teen who’s so sheltered and Christian, she comes with her own portable headlights because she’s constantly barraged by what-ifs. Meet Caitlin, one of a gaggle of siblings whose names all begin with C and are part of a gospel pop group known as the Singing Singleberrys. Life at home is so squeaky clean that she even worries about just thinking about impure thoughts. In addition, she’s obsessed with being perfect, a good Christian role model and suffers from serious anxiety attacks. She overcompensates for imagined sins and failures by doing things like applying to a dozen colleges for fear she’ll never get into any of them. In short, she’s a sweet mess, but with good reasons that unfold as the story progresses.

One thing she hasn’t done is have any contact with her cousin Heller since an afternoon when Heller’s impulsive and selfish behavior almost killed Caitlin. Every time she remembers that afternoon, she has to fight off another wave of panic. Before the disaster, the girls were best friends, with Heller usually involved in something outlandish in an effort to help Caitlin break loose from her own head.

When Caitlin is summoned to the breakfast table by her mom, the last person she expects to see sitting there is her aunt Nancy, Heller’s mother. The sisters haven’t talked to each other since the tragedy, so Caitlin immediately suspects something’s up. It is, but in ways far beyond her wildest imagination.

Cousin Heller, fresh out of rehab, is in need of a chaperone for the weekend so she can be kept out of trouble during the events leading up to the premiere of Angel Wars a movie based on a trilogy that has most of the world buzzing. Heller plays the lead female, but unless she’s kept in check for three days, it could well be her last role ever, hence the desperate appeal by her aunt and Caitlin’s mother.

Armed with the imagined righteousness of God, Caitlin agrees, expecting that with the force of goodness behind her, she’ll be able to resist evil and make Heller see the error of her ways. Well, we all know how the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. This time it’s a brand new superhighway, with Heller driving a Ferrari.

The weekend involves Caitlin discovering hot guys, the impossibility of saying no, jail, body art, invading a cupcake factory, making a thirteen year old cancer survivor’s wishes come wildly true and a new way for both Caitlin and Heller to see each other’s inner workings.

Yes, Caitlin seems over the top goody goody at times and will annoy some readers, but stick around for the full story and you’ll be very pleasantly surprised. I liked it a lot.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, June 2018.

Waiting On Wednesday (94)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that
spotlights upcoming releases that I’m really
looking forward to. Waiting On Wednesday
is the creation of Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week’s “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

I Am Still Alive
Kate Alice Marshall
Viking Books for Young Readers, July 2018
Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult

From the publisher—

After
Jess is alone. Her cabin has burned to the ground. She knows if she doesn’t act fast, the cold will kill her before she has time to worry about food. But she is still alive—for now.

Before
Jess hadn’t seen her survivalist, off-the-grid dad in over a decade. But after a car crash killed her mother and left her injured, she was forced to move to his cabin in the remote Canadian wilderness. Just as Jess was beginning to get to know him, a secret from his past paid them a visit, leaving her father dead and Jess stranded.

After
With only her father’s dog for company, Jess must forage and hunt for food, build shelter, and keep herself warm. Some days it feels like the wild is out to destroy her, but she’s stronger than she ever imagined.

Jess will survive. She has to. She knows who killed her father…and she wants revenge.

Why am I waiting so eagerly? Whew, this one sounds like a corker and it hits a lot of my hotbuttons, especially the wilderness setting with a protagonist who’s out of her element. On the surface, the premise seems a little farfetched but we all know how life can turn on you without warning so, yes, I can see something like this happening. All I know for sure is I really want to read this book 😉

Life Lessons from Murder Mysteries—and a Giveaway!

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:

E-Mail: writerlaurencarr@gmail.net
Website: http://mysterylady.net/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lauren.carr.984991
Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:
http://www.facebook.com/LoversInCrimeMysteries?ref=ts&fref=ts
Acorn Book Services Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/AcornBookServices?ref=hl
Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

Once, during a radio interview, the topic of my husband came up. The lead host, a long-time fan, announced the interesting fact that my husband of almost thirty years has never read any of my best-selling murder mysteries. I’ve written and published over twenty mysteries, over four series, and Jack has yet to read a single one.

New to the show, the other host, who hadn’t had a chance to read any of my books, was shocked—as many people are.

“It’s okay,” I said with a shrug. “It used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore. My husband reads non-fiction and is supportive of my writing in every other way. He doesn’t have to read my books.”

I was surprised when across the table, this co-host sighed with relief. “Me, too. I don’t like reading fiction. I prefer non-fiction.”

By the end of the show, this co-host asked for an autographed copy of my latest book and promised to read it. I’ve been back on that radio show several times and know that he has yet to read any of my books. I still enjoy our interviews and we get along well. He’s a very nice man, respectable, intelligent, and I like him. It’s okay that he doesn’t like fiction or murder mysteries.

During the course of my journey as a fiction author, I have learned many things about the world.

√ Everyone is different. Each one of us views, feels, and thinks differently about everything. Even in fiction, one reader may see a message that other readers may not.

√ Just because someone perceives something differently from you, doesn’t mean he is stupid, wrong, or have some ulterior motive.

When I was a college student, I remember hearing more than one literature professor declare, “The whale in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick symbolizes …”

At which point I would think:

“How do you know that was what Moby Dick is a symbol of? Did Herman Melville say that is what Moby Dick symbolizes? Maybe he just wanted to write a thrilling book about a big white whale and Moby Dick doesn’t mean anything.”

Over the years, I have concluded that I was right.

The plotline for my ninth Mac Faraday mystery Three Days to Forever and the Washington DC backdrop of the Thorny Rose Mysteries were inspired by numerous sources—mostly a series of news events involving terrorism and disagreement in our country about how to handle the rise of Islam and the spread of terrorism—even the debate of “Is it really an issue? Is our country really safe?”

As a writer, I asked myself many “What if’s…” Among them, “What if traitors to our country, supporting Islamic terrorist groups, managed to achieve positions high up in our government—even to the point of being a trusted advisor to our president.” Thus, one element of the plot in Three Days to Forever involves fictional characters in the fictional president’s administration.

Since I don’t live under a rock, being aware of the political divide in our country, I issued Three Days to Forever with a disclaimer reminding readers that this book is a work of fiction. “It is not the author’s commentary on politics, the media, the military, or Islam. While actual current events have inspired this adventure in mystery and suspense, this fictional work is not meant to point an accusatory finger at anyone in our nation’s government.”

This disclaimer held true for the first installment in the Thorny Rose Mysteries, Kill and Run, as well. While much of the mystery revolves around the military and Pentagon setting, Kill and Run was never meant as a commentary against the military in any way, shape, or form.

My job as a writer is to observe things—how things, people, circumstances, are, and ask, “What if …” Based on my observations during my years as an editor in Washington, I created a compelling backdrop for Kill and Run and the premise for the Thorny Rose Mysteries.

In the third Thorny Rose Mystery, Murder by Perfection, I explore our society’s obsession with perfection and it’s dark side.

In spite of the disclaimer, I was not surprised when a few readers interpreted the fictional plot of Three Days to Forever as an attack on then-President Obama and a political message. One reader actually pointed to the note saying, “tells me that deep down she probably knows better.”

These readers who read unintended messages between the lines and cast judgment on the deliverer of that assumed message have just as much right to their opinion and beliefs as I have to write a series about an elite special ops team working off the grid for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

During the course of my writing career, in speaking and corresponding with readers, reviewers, and writers from diverse backgrounds, I have learned that every single person has different likes, dislikes, beliefs in sex, politics, religions, and worldviews.

Yet, our country is so widely divided with such raw feelings on both sides that it is virtually impossible for a fiction writer to pen anything with so much as a hint of reference to sex, politics, religious belief, or worldview without wounding a sensitive reader.

In normal times, offending one overly-sensitive reader would not be any great concern. But, these are not normal times. With social media, it is not out of the realm of possibilities for a single reader to blow a gasket over a perceived offense and blast it to her friends and followers. The next thing a writer knows, that throw away line in her novel, spoken by her serial killing antagonist, has been twisted and perverted to suggest that the novelist herself is racist misogynist homophobic pedophile who gets her jollies eating cheeseburgers in front of vegans. Recent news events are filled with examples of public figures (or even non-public figures), on both sides of the divide, having to walk back comments made in passing that have been snapped up and twisted into the most unpleasant image by their foes.

A few books ago, I was bouncing potential plotline ideas off another writer. Our conversation went something like this:

“I’m thinking of having the killer escape from the crime scene dressed like a woman,” I said.

There was a pause before my friend asked, “Do you mean he’s transgender?” There was trepidation in her tone.

“No, he dresses up like a woman to fool the police when they see the CCTV recording,” I explained. “They’re going to be looking for a woman when the killer is actually a man. He’ll slip into the bathroom of a gay bar a couple of blocks away. He’ll change out of the dress and then leave out the front door. How do you like that twist?”

“And then when you have the big reveal, some readers are going to think that you’re making homosexuals and transgender people out to be homicidal maniacs—”

“The killer is not homosexual or transgender,” I said.

“Is he homophobic?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “He’s straight. Whether he is homophobic has nothing to do with it. He killed his wife’s lover and is trying to get away without being detected.”

“But he’s wearing the dress and wig and he escapes through a gay bar.”

“Exactly,” I said. “And if the police figure out via the house’s security system that it is a man in a dress, and they find the dress in the bar’s bathroom, they’ll think the killer is a transvestite.”

“Then you’re slamming the LGBTQ community.”

“It’s a plot device,” I argued. “The character is simply—”

“That’s such a hot topic right now,” she said. “Do you even want to go there?”

What sounded like a good twist was shelved for another time. Maybe in ten years I can use that twist.

The problem for fiction authors is this: Our plotlines are fiction. Our characters are fictional people created to fill a role in our make-believe drama.

It is common for a writer to create positive characters whose belief systems are contrary to their own. Good writers do this. Any fictional writer who insists on depicting the world within the confines of their own belief system is doing themselves and their readers a disservice. The world encompasses many different types of people with different views of how things are and beliefs of how things should be.

Studies have proven that when it comes to siblings, each child is born into a different family. Think about it. The first-born begins life as an only child. The second child is born into an established family. The last child may be born into a big family. In each case, the circumstances—family dynamics—are different. Therefore, each comes away with different experiences and impressions of their childhood. How many of us know of siblings in which one remembers their childhood as something from “Nightmare on Elm Street”, while one or more saw their family as role models for “The Waltons”?

That means we are all different—which makes a vast global pool of characters, plotlines, and themes to inspire writers fearless enough to explore them.

The vast majority of fiction writers are not writing to make a statement about anything. However, some of us have become so gun shy that we strive to not write anything that could possibly be perceived as a statement.

Truthfully, there is no way possible to write a book that’s going to please every single reviewer and reader. Nor is it possible to not offend someone reading something between the lines—even if that message is only in the reader’s mind—not unlike literature professors who view Moby Dick as a symbolic figure.

One reader posted a two-star review for Open Season for Murder, the tenth Mac Faraday Mystery, because I had named a minor character Corey Haim.

“What really got to me in this book though was that one of the lesser characters was named for a deceased Canadian actor, Corey Haim, who died in 2010 of a possible accidental drug overdose. Seriously?? Fine, use the name Corey or Haim but to link the two together? No, I wasn’t a fan of the young man but I found the use of his name offensive.”

My first response? To google “Corey Haim” to find out who she was talking about. I had never heard of this actor. Nor had I ever seen any of his movies.

The minor character by that name in Open Season for Murder bore no resemblance to the actor. He was not an actor. He was not a drug addict. He had no emotional issues at all. This minor character was positive in every way shape and form—which begs the question—how is using the name of someone who had lived a tragic life for a positive character offensive?

Is it really any wonder that authors, reviewers, or readers don’t see the same book in the same manner? Are those who read “messages” between the lines (like the reader offended by the name Corey Haim) that I did not intend (since I had never heard of Corey Haim) wrong or stupid or judgmental? Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

My only intention is to write thrilling mysteries with plenty of twists and turns. As a human being and author, I respect those readers whose strong beliefs, whether they be political, religious, or whatever, differ from mine. I only ask that they reciprocate with their respect.

After all, how else can billions of people, each one different in their own way, get along on this planet we call Earth if we don’t respect each one’s differences?

So, when it comes to people, whether they be readers, reviewers, lovers of non-fiction, or my most devoted fan who still won’t read my murder mysteries—who disagree or dislike my books or are offended by the name of a minor character or what they perceive to be my worldview, I say, with a shrug of my shoulders, “That’s okay.”

That’s what writing about murder has taught me about life.

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of Murder by Perfection by
Lauren Carr,
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