Book Review: The Risks of Dead Reckoning by Felicia Watson—and a Giveaway! @FeliciaTes @DXVaros @TLCBookTours

The Risks of Dead Reckoning
The Lovelace Series, Book 3
Felicia Watson
D. X. Varos, March 2021
ISBN 978-1941072899
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Naiche Decker is engaged! And no one is more surprised by it than her. But first, she has one more mission. The Lovelace is ordered to respond to a distress call from unexplored space, and from a crew who all died 200 years ago. What they find is not only amazing, but potentially lethal. If Lt. Decker is going to make it down the aisle, she will have to survive the dangers of planet Tolu first.

The Risks of Dead Reckoning was my introduction to the Lovelace trilogy and I found much to like here. While it’s generally preferable to read books in order, this works as a standalone as long as you’re willing to forgo some of the backstory and I am.

Ms. Watson has two main strengths in my opinion, vivid characterizations being one of them. As you might expect, the primary players on the Lovelace stand out in a crowd but others, including “bad guys”, are also very distinctive and add much to a lively story. (I especially appreciate the flying dinosaur-thingies.)

The other strong point is worldbuilding and I think Ms. Watson is particularly good at this aided, I think, by her background in science not to mention an active imagination. Whether she intended it or not, I was reminded a lot of the original Star Trek and that is not a bad thing. As in that series, here we have a spaceship crew heading into the unknown to explore but also to respond to what seems to be an appeal for help. When Deck and the rest of the Lovelace crew are confronted by creepy critters, odd aliens and lots of questions, what more could I ask for?

It’s a wild, fun ride and I’m very glad to have had a seat—now I need to check out the first two books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2021.

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

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About the Author

Felicia Watson started writing stories as soon as they handed her a pencil in first grade. When not writing, Felicia spends her time with her darling dogs, her beloved husband, being an amateur pastry chef, and still finds time for her day job as a scientist.

Connect with Felicia:

Twitter // Goodreads

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy of
The Risks of Dead Reckoning, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
on the evening of Wednesday, September 22nd.
US entrants only.

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Sterling and Me: Tail of a Mystery Author and Her Dog #5—and a Giveaway! @TheMysteryLadie

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

Killer Deadline marks Lauren’s first venture into mystery’s purely cozy sub-genre with a female protagonist. 

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

A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram ~ Pinterest

 

The More Characters Change…

Hair styles change. Fashion changes. Diets change. I remember when women trying to lose weight insisted that meat was the culprit to unwanted inches. Everyone would be eating big baked potatoes while dreaming of slipping into that teeny weeny bikini.

Now, meat (protein) is in. Potatoes (carbs) are out. But what doesn’t change is the search for that perfect diet.

When I was a new author honing my skills for mystery writing, I was convinced that it was possible to write book after book in a series without changing a thing—except the plotline. The characters would live in the same house. They would look the same. They don’t age. Their personalities remain constant.

My assumption was evidenced by devouring many classic mystery series in which the protagonists all remained the same from one book to the next.

Perry Mason never got married or involved in a serious relationship (I’m in the camp that was convinced it was because he was in one with Della.) His office remained at the same location. He never expanded to take on associates or get a bigger office. Della was never promoted to executive assistant.

Miss Marple never lost it when it came to her acute observation. She never ended up in a nursing home.

Nero Wolfe never went on a diet or left the house.

But we aren’t just discussing personal circumstances like moving into bigger homes or changing careers.

The character in each of these classic mystery series remained unchanged from one installment to the next. In other words, they never developed during the course of the series. While Hercule Poirot slowly grew older throughout Agatha Christie’s most famous series, his personality aka his character remained the same.

Many series writers want the next book to build on the previous installment. This forces readers to read the books in order. Imagine the confusion of watching the Lord of the Rings movies starting with The Return of the King.

Yet, for mystery authors like myself, who strive to make each mystery a standalone, it is a challenge to keep our characters the same. We want the characters to be the same person from one book to the next because we don’t want readers to be confused about changes in the characters’ circumstances.

I have discovered that this is an impossible task.

In It’s Murder, My Son, Mac Faraday was thrust into a new world. One day he was on the brink of bankruptcy. Suddenly, he comes into a fortune that many can only dream of. More than that, he discovers a birth mother who had never forgotten about him.

Through the course of the thirteen installments in the Mac Faraday Mysteries, we see Mac grow to embrace his new family and close circle of friends. He grows from the slightly awkward retired homicide detective in faded jeans to a sophisticated businessman, celebrated detective, brother, father, and husband.

Readers have seen Mac through his daughter marrying a navy officer forty-eight hours after meeting him, his geeky son embarking on a relationship with a naval academy midshipman who aspires to be the first female navy SEAL, and his half-brother dating a wide variety of women.

Through it all, Mac has remained the rock―the anchor to whom everyone goes for advice.

Archie Monday starts out the series as a hard-working editor and personal assistant to a famous mystery author. Traveling around the world with Robin Spencer, Mac’s late mother, had introduced her to elegance and luxury―an appreciation which she passes on to Mac. Her love and knowledge of literature, in particularly crime fiction, is a perfect match for Mac Faraday’s investigative skills.

In A Wedding and a Killing, Archie Monday changes up from assistant to the wealthy to become a rich man’s wife.

That is not to say that Archie spends her days getting facials and looking down her nose at the help. She continues her career as the top independent editor of mystery novels.

In The Nutcracker Conspiracy, the fourth Thorny Rose Mystery, Mac Faraday and Archie Monday leave for Europe where Archie has contracted to work with a member of the royal family on a novel. While Archie works, Mac Faraday enjoys the luxury of being her supportive husband.

Coming January 2022, in the fourteenth installment of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, A Homecoming to Die For, Mac and Archie return to Spencer after a year of living abroad to find that much has changed.

They are now godparents to David O’Callaghan and his wife’s new baby girl, Amelia Rose. That’s right, Mac’s womanizing half-brother has settled down to marry Hope. He is also the father of a teenaged son Gabriel, who he never knew he had.

Readers will find that David is much more settled and content. He is looking forward to embracing his four months of paternity leave to bond with his new family only to have murder rear its ugly head.

Mac’s son Tristan has taken the leap to become the homeowner of a lakeside home in Spencer. The older home requires massive renovations. Wouldn’t you know it—while Tristan is taking his father on a tour, contractors dig up the body of a woman in an abandoned swimming pool in his back yard.

The woman, Konnor Sweeney, had been reported missing twelve years earlier by a seasonal resident by the name of Erica Hart, a famous blogger known as the Cold Case Diva.

This investigation brings together a new team of detectives in Spencer.

Deputy Chief Bogie, who was sixty-five years old in the first Mac Faraday mystery, has married Doc Washington, the medical examiner, and retired to hang out and fish.

With David on leave, new Deputy Chief Dusty O’Meara must lead the investigation in his first murder case since moving to Spencer from Montana. Not only does Dusty have to prove himself to the citizens of Spencer, David, and the legendary Mac Faraday, but he also has to match wits with the Cold Case Diva, who is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery.

The town’s residents, David, and Mac Faraday aren’t so difficult. Even Gnarly, the town’s canine mayor, is manageable as long as he is fed and entertained. Erica Hart, Dusty finds, is more of a challenge. It wouldn’t be so difficult, if she wasn’t so gosh darn irresistible.

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Giveaway

Name a character in the upcoming A Homecoming to Die For!

The character is an older woman—true crime author. Former nun born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She writes true crime novels about murders with a religious connection.

Enter your suggested name below in the comments. The author, Lauren Carr, will select the winning name. The winner will get a signed copy of A HOMECOMING TO DIE FOR, which will be released in January 2022.

 

Book Review: Not As We Knew It by F. M. Meredith @MarilynMeredith

Not As We Knew It
Rocky Bluff P. D. Mystery #16
F. M. Meredith
ISBN 979-8564552684
Trade Paperback

From the author—

The challenges come one after another for the Rocky Bluff P.D. to handle―from a missing woman to a fatal house fire.Detective Doug Milligan is faced with new and unusual problems to solve, some on the job and others related to his family.Gordon Butler isn’t too happy that his wife was chosen to train the latest new-hire.With the department shorthanded, Chief Chandra Taylor must make some hard decisions in order to protect the town of Rocky Bluff. Her romance with the mayor, which had been put on hold, is refreshed when she seeks his help.

One of the real pitfalls (for me) of accepting review requests from authors is the potential danger of having a request fall into a black hole because of backlogs that get worse and worse due to illness and life conditions in general (specifically the weird funk that has come with the pandemic, leading to a major reading slump and inability to focus). I have several books that have been wallowing in this pit, including this one, and I can only abjectly apologize for slacking off much too long. What’s really sad is that Not As We Knew It is a good book and it deserved better treatment from me.

Although some readers have said they don’t want the pandemic to play a role in the books they choose, Ms. Meredith opted to make it a part of her story and I’m glad she did. One of the hallmarks of police procedural is that they’re rooted in reality and this awful scourge is as real as it gets.

Ms. Meredith has a good hand with building characters we longtime fans love to spend time with and, besides the personal and societal complications of life brought about by Covid, our favorite detectives, such as Abel Navarro and Doug Milligan, are confronted by the crimes we might expect while Chief Taylor does everything she can to keep Rocky Bluff on an even keel, safe from criminals and overstressed, irrational citizens alike. You could say that Not As We Knew It is a police procedural very reflective of this odd world we’re struggling with. Well done!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2021.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy of
Not As We Knew It, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
on the evening of Thursday, September 2nd.
US and Canada entrants only.

Book Review: The Last Exit by Michael Kaufman—and a Giveaway! @KaufmanWrites @crookedlanebks

The Last Exit
A Jen Lu Mystery #1
Michael Kaufman
Crooked Lane Books, January 2021
ISBN 978-1-64385-567-7
Hardcover

Set in the future, Jen Lu is a Washington D.C. detective with a synth implant named Chandler residing in her neocortex. She is able to turn Chandler off at will, but is not supposed to when on duty. With a population grown out of control and limited resources and space for everyone, people over sixty-five are required to exit (die) so their children may live—as long as they can pay for an expensive longevity treatment.

One evening, Jen and Chandler are called to a stand-off between parents and child because the parents refuse to “exit” at their son’s demand.  A shoot-out occurs, with the mother’s last words something about going to Eden.

Jen’s investigation turns up a cheaper source for the treatment and the term “Eden” is mentioned, but reports are coming in of many people dying. When her supervisor calls her off the case, suspicions grow of something hinky going on, which involves people in government, law enforcement, and of course, highest society.

Determined to get to the bottom of it, especially after Chandler is turned off and Jen fired, Jen’s own life and hope for longevity is put in jeopardy as she follows a money trail. Only the presence of her former cop partner, her boyfriend, and Chandler’s power, can help put things right.

Excellent world-building, entirely plausible—and more than a bit scary. Fine writing and interesting characters make Mr. Kaufman most definitely a writer to watch.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2021.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Six Dancing Damsels: A China Bohannon Mystery

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy of
The Last Exit, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
on the evening of Sunday, August 22nd.
US and Canada entrants only.

Book Review: The Ocean in Winter by Elizabeth de Veer—and a Giveaway! @BlackstoneAudio @TLCBookTours

The Ocean in Winter
Elizabeth de Veer
Blackstone Publishing, July 2021
ISBN 978-1-982674649
Hardcover

From the publisher—

The lives of the three Emery sisters were changed forever when Alex, eleven at the time, found their mother drowned in the bathtub of their home. After their mother’s suicide, the girls’ father shut down emotionally, leaving Alex responsible for caring for Colleen, then eight, and little Riley, just four. Now the girls are grown and navigating different directions. Alex, a nurse, has been traveling in India and grieving her struggle to have a child; Colleen is the devoted mother of preteens in denial that her marriage is ending; and Riley has been leading what her sisters imagine to be the dream life of a successful model in New York City. Decades may have passed, but the unresolved trauma of their mother’s death still looms over them creating distance between the sisters.

Then on a March night, a storm rages near the coast of northeastern Massachusetts. Alex sits alone in an old farmhouse she inherited from a stranger. The lights are out because of the storm; then, an unexpected knock at the door. When Alex opens it, her beautiful younger sister stands before her. Riley has long been estranged from their family, prompting Colleen to hire the private investigator from whom they’d been awaiting news. Comforted by her unexpected presence, Alex holds back her nagging questions: How had Riley found her? Wouldn’t the dirt roads have been impassable in the storm? Why did Riley insist on disappearing back into the night?

After her mysterious visitation, Alex and Colleen are determined to reconcile with Riley and to face their painful past, but the closer they come to finding their missing sister, the more they fear they’ll only be left with Riley’s secrets. An unforgettable story about grief, love, and what it means to be haunted, The Ocean in Winter marks the debut of a remarkable new voice in fiction.

Eleven-year-old Alex lost her childhood in an instant the moment she found her mother dead from suicide. Even that extremely traumatic event might have not been so overwhelming if only her father had been strong enough to step up to his duties but, no, he retreated. The three children were pretty much left on their own with Alex taking on the role of mother to Colleen and Riley.

The three girls promised to always be there for each other but life didn’t cooperate and they drifted apart, each on a very different path. Then certain circumstances bring them back into each other’s orbits again and the deep-seated love is still very evident.

This is a character-driven story with limited plot and, as such, the pacing is much slower than I usually like but there is no shortage of feeling. In fact, emotions run high and numerous themes come into play including some that might be considered triggers (suicide, depression, drug addiction, emotional abandonment, etc.). Ms. de Veer handles all of this with grace and compassion beyond her status as a debut author.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2021.

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

”Do we choose our memories, or do our memories choose us?
That’s the central question for the three sisters in Elizabeth de Veer’s
emotionally rich, incandescent debut novel. Ocean in Winter is
a page-turner of a book with a family mystery at its core, and profoundly
explores the ways in which women struggle to rebuild their lives
after grief and trauma. You won’t want to put it down once you start.”
—Holly Robinson, author of Beach Plum Island and Chance Harbor

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An Excerpt from
The Ocean in Winter

I am hurtling through Massachusetts at a rate of speed I cannot understand; the wind blows my cheeks, but it does not feel cold. I know only generally where I am going: deep into the state’s north- east corner where small towns cluster at the coast like grapes, nestled by a fragile barrier island at the mouth of the Merrimack River. The towns, blanketed now in briny mist, go by these names: Rowley; Newbury; Newburyport; Salisbury; and, inland, the city of Amesbury, the rough-edged river-fed mill town where my sisters and I grew up, a place I left when I was eighteen and never returned to. The town was too small for me, I suppose, and too much had happened for me and Amesbury to pretend that we had ever been all that close.

A storm has been raging here all day, but now the rain has stopped. In this strange moment, I come to stand on the doorstep of a house in the town of Newbury that I have never seen before, an old farmhouse whose white paint and green trim are cracked and peeling, wooden beams rotted. Behind me, I leave no foot- prints in the cold mud.

What year is this? I think for a moment. Wait, how do I not know the answer immediately?

It’s 2014. The answer comes to mind like a vague memory, as though the question itself does not matter. The house belongs to my oldest sister, Alex. Time is confusing to me right now—how long has it been since I saw her? Years, I think. But how many? Four, five, six? More? Maybe seven. I pushed her away. I pushed everyone away, far away, all to protect my ugly little secrets. Regret lingers in my throat like bile; I’ve made so many mistakes.

I glance through the front window; the room beyond is pitch black. The electricity in this area is out and has been out for a couple of hours. How do I know this? I’m not sure. In the woods beyond this clearing, trees creak high and long like old rocking chairs, swaying slowly in one direction and then the other. The effect is eerie, ghostly.

Many secrets stand between me and my sisters, Alex and Colleen, but not all will be revealed tonight. Tomorrow, after dawn breaks, one of these secrets shall become known. Others will unfold in the days to follow. Far from here a little boy sleeps soundly in his bed in the city. My awareness of him is so intense, I can almost hear his soft steady breath. Goodbye, sweet Caleb. Mama loves you, though she never did a good job of showing it.

I stand for a moment at the threshold of this house and take a deep breath of damp, mossy air, while a chill wind presses against my neck and blows my hair in my face. Alex is inside alone. She is not waiting for me, in fact, she is not expecting my visit. I raise my fist to the door and rap my knuckles against it. One moment passes, and then another. Nothing happens, so I knock again. Finally, Alex opens the door a crack.

“Hello?” she whispers. “Is someone there? Colleen?”

“Alex, it’s me,” I say, pushing my hair away from my face. “Riley.”

“Riley?” she says, incredulous. Then she opens the door the rest of the way. She points her flashlight toward me; I squint in the light and raise my hand to shield my eyes. From the shadows Alex stares, her pale face wide-eyed with fear and surprise. Slowly her expression registers recognition and then she gasps.

“Riley!” She pulls me inside and slams the door to leave the wind and wildness behind us. She throws her arms around me and hugs me hard and long; I do the same. There is a damp towel over her shoulder. Her wool sweater smells dusty, and the air reeks of plaster and paint.

“Hi, Alex,” I say.

“Where have you been?” she says, touching my arm as though she does not believe that I am real. “We’ve been searching for you. Are you okay? Wait, how did you find me?”

“That’s a lot of questions,” I say.

“Let me look at you,” she says, and she holds my face in her hands. She’s shorter than I am, which is surprising because she is eight years older, and I remember her as tall, although I suppose the last time I saw her I was already over a head taller. In my childhood memories, she’s a grown-up, which I guess she has been since she was eleven, since the day she saw what she saw. In the pale shimmer from two utility candles in paper cups, her skin looks tired, her eyes sunken as though she has not been sleeping. Her eyes bear the beginnings of fine lines at the corners; she, too, has aged in these past years. The dark, curly waves of her hair are streaked with a few gray strands, tied back in a sloppy ponytail. She looks strong, like she’s someone who knows what she’s doing. The kind of person I always wished I were or would someday become.

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About the Author

Elizabeth de Veer has a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and has been admitted to writing residencies at the Jentel Artist Residency, the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She is a member of several writing groups, including Grub Street Writers’ Collective of Boston, the Newburyport Writers’ Group, Sisters in Crime New England, and the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. She lives in a small town in Northeast Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and labradoodle.

To learn more, check out her web site at elizabethdeveer.com.

Connect with Elizabeth
Website // Facebook // Instagram

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy of
The Ocean in Winter, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
on the evening of Thursday, July 29th.
US entrants only.

************

Sterling and Me: Tail of a Mystery Author and Her Dog #4—and a Giveaway! @TheMysteryLadie

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

Killer Deadline marks Lauren’s first venture into mystery’s purely cozy sub-genre with a female protagonist. 

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

A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram ~ Pinterest

Why I Didn’t Write Today

As the author of close to thirty books, I take great pride in declaring that I write every single day. It keeps my writing skills taunt, much like how an athlete has to hit the gym every day. Even after taking over iRead Book Tours, I still managed to spend a few hours working on my own books in the evenings and weekends.

Sadly, this all went out the window when the pandemic hit because authors were forced to abandon in-person book events in favor for virtual book tours. Buried under an avalanche of work, I have had to scrape together what little bit of time I could to work on my next Mac Faraday mystery.

As things have started to open up a bit, I finally managed to shuffle things around to piece together two and a half days a week, the weekend, to work exclusively on my own books.

Finally, after over a year of mayhem, I was making creative progress on my next Mac Faraday mystery, A Homecoming to Die For. In this new installment, Mac and Archie return to Deep Creek Lake after a year abroad to encounter a mystery when Mac’s son finds the remains of a missing woman in a dismantled swimming pool of his new home.

That was when my dishwasher decided to launch its attack on my routine.

It was two-thirty Sunday morning when I awoke from a nightmare. It was awful. The world had been hit with a dreadful chocolate and dog biscuit shortage. There wasn’t a chocolate truffle to be had anywhere. With no reward for good behavior, Sterling transformed into a werewolf.

I awoke with a start.

Sensing that I was awake, Sterling announced that it was time to start my day. I figured I could bribe him to go back to sleep with a dog biscuit.

We shuffled into the kitchen to attack the biscuit jar (and check the cookie jar to ensure that my nightmare was only a dream) to discover a puddle in the middle of the floor. Not only that, but the dishwasher was running. The control panel showed an error code that read HE.

Now at this point, I did what any normal person would do. I gave Sterling his biscuit, mopped up the puddle, and returned to bed in hopes that when I woke up in the morning, I would find that it was all a bad dream.

After five minutes of staring up at the ceiling in terror, I returned to the kitchen to discover that it was true. My dishwasher was still running.

Sterling thought, “What luck!” as he ate another biscuit. (This is why his diet is not going well. The dog has no self-control.)

An LE website listed the HE code as one to indicate overheating or not heating up enough. It suggested resetting the dishwasher by turning it off. So, I hit the power button to turn it off.

Fifteen seconds later, it turned back on by itself. This time, the error code was AE. The website said this code meant that there was either a clog or a leak.

Well, the mystery writer in me concluded that since there had been a puddle in the middle of the floor when I entered the crime scene, a leak was the culprit.

At this point, it was after three o’clock in the morning. I decided to turn off the dishwasher and confront the issue in the morning. I turned it off.

It turned back on.

I turned it off again.

It turned back on. With the motor running and grinding and running.

There’s no water in you, you stupid, dishwasher! So turn off all ready before you burn out your motor!

Unable to turn the thing off, I went to the circuit board and flipped the switch. After counting to thirty, I turned it on again.

I could hear the dishwasher running again like a machine gone mad all the way down in the basement.

The website said to reset the dishwasher, turn off the power for ten to fifteen minutes and then turn it back on.

Well, the dishwasher was on the same circuit as our refrigerator and freezer, but I figured they would stand ten to fifteen minutes without power.

During that time, I worked a bit on A Homecoming to Die For. Mac Faraday and David O’Callaghan were getting the autopsy results from Doc Washington on the latest victim of a nasty murder when my husband shuffled out of the bedroom.

“What’s going on?” He peered with suspicion at the mop propped up against the wall. Something had to be horrendously wrong for me to mop the floor in the middle of the night.

I recounted the events of the night to him. He did what any normal person would do. He went back to bed in hopes that he would wake up later to discover that it was all a bad dream.

I turned the power back on to the dishwasher (and the fridge). Instantly, the dishwasher turned on and flashed that AE message. A repairman on YouTube stated that the dishwasher does this because it wants me to know that there is a leak and wants me to fix it.

Yeah, I’ll fix it all right. Give me a stick of dynamite and I’ll fix it good.

Now would be a good time to tell you about my recent history with dishwashers. You might want to grab a cup of coffee or something stronger. I’m going to grab a bag of Hershey kisses.

I have a dishwasher for a reason. I hate washing dishes. I have never liked washing dishes.

Everyone has one chore that they would rather stick needles in their eyes than do. My husband’s detested chore is cleaning up pet do or changing diapers. When my son was a toddler, I came down with pneumonia. I was bedridden for four weeks. My mother stayed with us to take care of me. In the hours between when I got home from the hospital and my mother arrived, Tristan did something in his diaper. Hysterical, my husband carried him with outstretched arms to me and begged me to find the strength to change it.

Six summers ago, I spent two months washing dishes. We had a Samsung dishwasher that was under warranty. It stopped working. Samsung sent out a repairman who assessed the issue. They sent out a part. Two weeks later, the repairman came out to install the part. The dishwasher still would not work. They sent out another part. Two weeks later, the repairman came out to install that.

And so on and so on throughout the summer from June to August.

That was not a good summer.

The repairman said that I needed a new dishwasher and told Samsung that. Still, Samsung would send out different parts for him to replace and still the dishwasher would not work.

About mid-August, I was on the phone with Samsung when I read the portion of the warranty stating that if they could not fix it that they would replace it. The customer service rep said that they were replacing it—and this is not an exaggeration—it is a direct quote: “One part at a time.”

Do you know how many parts there are in a dishwasher? A lot!

I went all the way to the store manager where we had purchased the dishwasher. A week later, we had a new dishwasher. This one is an LG.

Fast forward two summers.

The motor went out. LG was fast and furious compared to Samsung. In less than one miserable July, I had a new motor and was back in business.

Last May, my husband walked in and handed me a notice from LG informing me that our extended warranty was going to expire in one month. They offered to renew the extended warranty for a cool price. “Do you think we should renew it?”

As if to answer him, the dishwasher stopped working.

In less than a week, a repairman was at our home. His assessment: the dishwasher needed a new motherboard, seals, you name it. Basically, it needed to be rebuilt.

Remember, this was during the pandemic. It took an entire torturous summer for the parts to be hunted down and smuggled from remote regions of Asia to West Virginia for him to rebuild my dishwasher.

I washed dishes by hand from May to August.

It was a long, hot, horrendous summer.

But we ended the summer with a five-year-old dishwasher (now out of warranty) that had been completely rebuilt with all new parts.

Eleven months later, it was running and running like some possessed appliance out of a cheap sci-fi film. The only way to shut it off was via the circuit board, which also shuts off the refrigerator.

Armed with a screwdriver, vice grips, and three YouTube videos posted by appliance repair people, I broke into the dishwasher in search of the leak that threatened to ruin yet another summer.

As long as I’m in the vicinity of the biscuit jar, Sterling requested biscuits to soothe him. He hasn’t seen me in such a state since last August.

It was during the morning hours that I had planned to spend working on my next mystery, that I dismantle this lemon in search of the leak.

Finally, I find it! The leak was in a piece of plastic attached to the vent in the door. This piece of plastic is attached to another piece of plastic. Together, they look like they are probably twenty to thirty dollars. After all, they are made of nothing but plastic.

YouTube says that you can’t buy one piece of the plastic part. You have to buy both.

Easy for him to say. Nowhere on the Internet does any parts website recognize these parts by name or part numbers.

Well, I figure, I can repair the leak with duct tape. Maybe since I tore the demented appliance apart, that will convince the demon inside that I have sufficiently addressed the issue of the leak and stop running.

I proceed to put it back together—and it won’t go back together. None of the screw holes will line up.

By now, it was noon. I was running on caffeine and fury.

My husband emerged from his study to announce, “Home Depot is having a sale on dishwashers. Their website says delivery will be July 14.”

After kicking the lemon out into the garage, we went to get lunch (cheesecake for me) and ordered the new dishwasher.

Delivery is August 9 due to backorder. So much for “delivery will be July 14.”

It’s going to be a long miserable summer. The stores have better stock up on chocolate truffles and dog biscuits.

   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Giveaway

Three winners will receive an Audible download
code
for It’s Murder, My Son! To enter the
drawing, leave a comment telling us

what appliance you can’t live without. The winning names will be drawn on Friday, July 16th.

Ripped from the Headlines, 19th Century—and a Giveaway! @JMmystery

Jeanne Matthews is happy to announce the arrival of a new historical mystery, Devil by the Tail, scheduled for release in July 2021.  Jeanne has a yen for travel and a passion for mythology, which she works into her novels whenever she can.  Originally from Georgia, Jeanne lives in Washington State with her husband, a law professor, and a Norwich terrier named Jack Reacher.  Information about her books, including the Dinah Pelerin international series, can be found on her website. http://www.jeannematthews.com  

Crime was an important theme in newspapers of the 19th Century and a major source of profit, especially accounts of sensational murders.  The more lurid the headlines, the more papers were sold.  The murder of beautiful and virtuous young ladies proved enormously popular, the gorier the better.  The love-gone-wrong angle added still more sizzle – infidelity, jealousy, insanity.  Readers gobbled it up and demanded more.  Written in a florid, exaggerated style, these reports sought to involve the emotions and play upon a sense of outrage.  “Next to the feeling that must arise from the contemplation of so foul a crime, we give ourselves to sadness that this unfortunate innocent should be murdered in the most shocking manner.”  But even more titillating than the death of an innocent, the murder of an infamous “nymph of the night” transfixed the public and boosted newspaper sales through the roof.

The murder of the prostitute Helen Jewett in 1836 changed journalism forever and coverage of the killer’s trial created a frenzy of competition among the penny press.  Which paper had scored an interview with the accused’s alibi witness?  Which had acquired statements from the prosecution’s lineup of witnesses, most of whom worked in the same brothel as the victim?  The public’s insatiable appetite for news created the inspiration – and the template – for the modern-day tabloid.  When Helen’s murderer was acquitted, a fresh cycle of shock and sensation erupted.

Of course murder wasn’t the only thing that grabbed readers’ interest.  One of the biggest stories reported from old Chicago was the affaire d’amour between “Gentle” Annie Stafford, the city’s most flamboyant brothel keeper and Cap Hymen, who ran its most notorious gambling den.  Annie had a savage temper, a misty-eyed fondness for the poetry of Lord Byron, and a serious crush on Cap.  We can’t know how he fell short of her romantic expectations, but on September 23, 1866, she armed herself with a rawhide whip and stormed into his card house.  The crowd cleared out as she knocked Cap downstairs, dragged him into the street, and chased him for several blocks, cracking her whip and expressing her disappointment in colorful language.  A few weeks later they married.  The wedding, attended by everyone who was anyone in the world of prostitution and gambling, was lavishly covered in the press.  The papers described all the juicy details of the event while deploring the couple’s unholy doings in their “shadowy haunts of vice.”

Before writing Devil By The Tail, I read a good many newspaper articles from the 1800s.  One item about a man who choked his wife to death impressed me so much I used it to kick off the novel.  “The orgy of crime continues and this reporter’s pen must hasten to keep pace with the bloody track of the monster.”  The literary flourishes, the hyperbole, the speculations and moralistic riffs fascinated me.  I studied journalism in college and once entertained ambitions of becoming a star reporter.  That didn’t happen, but I liked the idea of introducing a reporter into my new novel.  I invented a scandal-mongering news hound, a character prone to embellishments and distortions, someone whose business it is to stir public sentiment regardless of the havoc he might cause.  A bride slain by a jealous rival is grist for his mill.  As my two detectives, Garnick and Paschal, conduct their investigation, this muckraker complicates their efforts at every turn – not only poisoning public opinion against their client, but delving into the private lives of the detectives, as well.

There’s a wonderful quote in an 1866 detective novel, The Dead Letter by Metta Fuller Victor, and I couldn’t resist including it as the epigraph for Devil By The Tail.  “The morning papers had heralded the melancholy and mysterious murder through the city…thousands of persons had already marveled over the boldness and success, the silence and suddenness with which the deed was done, leaving not a clue by which to trace the perpetrator.  The public mind was busy with conjecture as to the motive for the crime – and it is not in the nature of a daily paper to neglect such opportunities for turning an honest penny.”

There has always been a morbid fascination with murder – a hunger for the heinous.  If it bleeds, it leads and sex sells.  This was as true in the 19th Century as it is today.  But the breathless, histrionic style of those early accounts “ripped from the headlines” makes murder sound simultaneously more horrible and more riveting.

Giveaway

Two unedited author review copies of Devil by the Tail are available for give away to readers who comment on this post; the winning names will be drawn on the evening of Monday, June 28th.  And if you don’t win the drawing, the book remains available for pre-order from the publisher at a 30% discount until its release in mid-July.  https://www.dxvaros.com/Devil-by-the-Tail-presales.