Scent of a Woman

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to talk about the wonders and varieties of perfumes.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.   //

True story: In 2007, China banned reincarnation. This weird law was passed to stop Tibetan Buddhists from finding the next Dalai Lama. If one wants to be reincarnated, they must get approval from the Chinese government. In 1995, a six-year-old boy was identified as the future Dalai Lama and “disappeared.”

Have I got your attention?

This fact begins The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose. A young calligraphy artist travels to Paris as part of a museum event. He is the future Dalai Lama. There’s a plan in place to give him asylum so he can complete his destiny.

But I’m not here to talk Chinese politics. I want to explore perfume.

In the novel, Jac L’Etoile and her brother have inherited a French perfumery. She wants no part of it. After 15 years of living in America, Jac is brought home when her brother disappears after uncovering knowledge of a secret scent that enables one to view a past life. Jac, with her sensitive nose and ability to smell out ingredients of perfumes, is on a mission to identify the ingredients of the ancient scent and find her brother.


Every woman should have a favorite scent. Cleopatra had her own factory near the Dead Sea. She created a smell said to seduce Caesar and Marc Anthony. Queen Isabella of Spain is rumored to have taken only two baths in her lifetime. Perfume covered the BO.

I remember going to church at Christmas and being overwhelmed by Avon. Evening in Paris with its distinctive cobalt blue bottle was on dressing tables. Popular for 35 years, it was discontinued in the ‘60’s and made a comeback in the 90’s.


The most expensive perfumes? Each bottle of Joy contains 10,600 jasmine flowers and 28 dozen roses. It costs $1,800. Guerlain will concoct an original scent for $55,000. But the one that tops them all is Shumukh from Dubai. Maybe it’s pricey because it’s decorated with 3500 diamonds. There is only one bottle in the world and it costs $1.29 million.

Young women experiment with different perfumes. Mine was Prince Matchabelli’s Beloved. It was a light, floral scent and perfect for a 16 year-old. It wasn’t until I was more mature that I discovered the perfume I use now. Mitsouko by Guerlain is subtle, unlike its popular sister scent, Shalimar. Shalimar dominates a room and trails behind the wearer. Mitsouko is a whisper and requires getting closer. It’s also harder to find.


There’s a legend behind the perfume. Blond Bombshell actress Jean Harlow used it so much that the studio stocked up. Rumor has it that when she married Paul Bern, a studio executive, she left him after two months. Some say that he was found in a bathtub filled with Mitsouko. Others say he was shot in the head by a jealous woman.

In conclusion, I have a message for men: If you want to buy a woman perfume, learn her signature scent. Ask her what she’s wearing. Sneak a peek at her dresser. Buy cologne, not perfume. Preferably the spray kind. She will reward you accordingly.


Yes, But How Did It Smell? @JMmystery

Jeanne Matthews is happy to announce the arrival of a new historical mystery, Devil by the Tail, released 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.  

Writing about smell is hard.  Most of us are better at describing what we see than what we smell.  Sounds are easier to put into words – the snap, crackle, and pop of a thing.  Touch presents no problem.  Is it hot, cold, soft, bristly?  But smell is the fallen angel of the senses, said Helen Keller, who possessed neither sight nor hearing and relied on her nose more than the average person.  Neuroscientists say that humans have 400 different types of receptors for detecting odor molecules – not so many as dogs or cats, but enough to permit us to identify a trillion distinct smells.  But recognizing a smell and capturing its essence in language can be challenging.

The Claret Drinker credit Ralph Steadman

Wine critics have the best olfactory vocabularies.  They tend to associate aroma with its source – flowers, herbs, minerals.  Saying that a wine tastes like a Tuscan sunset is an imaginative stretch and a perfect example of synaesthesia, i.e., the use of one sense to describe another.  Cool colors, loud wallpaper, a gravelly voice.  It’s a common rhetorical device that allows writers to deliver an extra level of description.  P.G. Wodehouse combined the sense of sound with the sense of sight.  “The girl had a quiet, but speaking eye.”  Robert Frost gave us the line, “From what I’ve tasted of desire.”  Raymond Chandler, that master of the figurative phrase, created one of the rare instances in which a smell is described in terms of another sense.  “She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight.”

Advertisers use synaesthesia by mixing expressions that refer to other senses.  Market research shows that products become fixed in our memory if they appeal to multiple senses at once.  Potato chips “like sweet banjo music to your tongue” and chocolate “like music to your mouth.”  Skittles taste like the rainbow.  “Hear the big picture,” is the tagline for Canadian national radio.  Rimmel coined the slogan, “Lips that scream with color.”  Small wonder mystery writers have jumped on the sensory bandwagon with titles such as The Sound of Murder, The Taste of Murder, and The Sweet Smell of Murder.

Perfume designers often liken scents to abstract qualities – joy, passion, truth.  While we’re all eager to “sniff out the truth,” it doesn’t give off an actual odor.  Likening a sense to an abstract quality is another kind of synaesthesia.  “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” enthuses Lt. Col. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now.  “One time we had a hill bombed for twelve hours…you know, that gasoline smell, the whole hill.  Smelled like…victory.”

Of course synaesthesia is also a neurological condition in which information meant to stimulate one sense intertwines and melds with others.  Billie Eilish is a synaesthete.  She perceives colors and shapes when she hears certain music; days and numbers and people trigger idiosyncratic sensory impressions.  Jimmy Fallon strikes Billie as a vertical brown rectangle.  Being associated with so drab a color was enough to discomfit Fallon.  He didn’t pursue the subject of smell.

Writers are urged to incorporate smells into their writing to immerse the reader more completely in their fictional worlds.  Smell can create a mood, signal danger, establish setting, and evoke memories – both pleasant and unpleasant.  I’ve been thinking a lot about smell lately, and not just because of the fear of catching COVID and losing that faculty altogether.  Smell plays a significant role in Devil by The Tail.  A friend told me she was reading Proust this summer and when she finished, she planned to read my book.  I was obliged to warn her that the transition from the taste and scent of a madeleine dipped in tea to the reek of the stockyards in 19th Century Chicago would be jarring.  Meatpackers dumped entrails, grease, and manure into the Chicago River.  One stretch of the river received so much blood and offal that it bubbled from methane, hydrogen sulfide gas, and the products of decomposition.  It was an olfactory nightmare, but not unattractive.  “’Twas the prettiest river to look at you’ll ever see,” wrote one journalist, “green at th’ sausage fact’ry, blue at th’ soap fact’ry, yellow at th’ tannery.”

You may ask how I was able to imagine the odoriferous miasma that hovered over Chicago in 1867.  As a matter of fact, I am uniquely qualified.  In the 1970s I worked as a paralegal for a law firm that represented a rendering plant that processed animal by-products for use as tallow and bone meal.  I visited the slaughterhouse and the plant on several occasions and spent so much time reading and writing about the operation that I became known in-house as the “queen of offal.”  The fragrance wafting from a rendering plant isn’t much like the whiff of a madeleine, but it is equally memorable.  Even so, it was hard to describe.

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.



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.


Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to reminisce about growing up in a small town and returning there to find a sense of home.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.   //

I recently participated in a multi-author event at the local library. It was part of the 130-year anniversary of the town of Hanford, CA. As I was sitting at my table, a woman came up to me and said “I’ve heard you speak at an event.” Several others said “Oh, I’ve heard of you.” One said “I’ve been dying to meet you!

Ah, the benefits of living in a small town. For years I’ve held the title of “Local Author.” People are proud of me. Not as proud as they are of Steve Perry, who I went to school with. But proud enough to make me proud.

In 1961, my family was stationed at the Naval Air Base in Lemoore, CA. The town population was 2,561. There was a healthy population of Portuguese people and the area was known as dairy country.

The natives questioned why the Navy would build a base inland, nowhere near the ocean. The base was for carrier training for jets, a safe place for pilots to practice take-offs, landings and the occasional ejection. By renting fields around the base, the population was safe from mishaps.

We weren’t welcomed with open arms. Farmers didn’t want their daughters mixing with sailors. But that changed as money started coming in. Shopping increased and houses were rented, plus the town got a stipend for every base kid who went to high school in town.


Growing up we dragged D Street on Saturday night, all of a half-mile. If you’ve seen American Graffiti, you’ve had a glimpse of Lemoore in 1969. Most of us graduated and left town for college or jobs. Many of us returned home years later.

I lived in Fresno and did most of my writing there. I worked with a Sheriff’s Dept. narc team and that’s where I got inspiration for my mysteries. But, I was unacknowledged in a city of half a million.

Lemoore has grown to a population of 27,285. I moved back in 2005, after my parents died. When I bought my house, neighbors knew I was moving in before the deed was signed. Cattycorner lived my mother’s best friend. Across the street was a woman I’d known in high school. Next door was the parents of a boy I went to high school with. Welcome home!

The Class of ’69 has bonded and often have mini reunions. I like the fact that I know the local librarians because I’m a constant customer. The woman at the post office went to school with my sister. The clerks at the grocery store are familiar to me. I’m in the Women’s Club and American Legion. I’m more involved with my community than I ever was in Fresno where I never knew my neighbors after living there for 17 years.

So yes, I’ll take a small town over a city any day. No, we don’t have a lot of “culture,” but we do have a lot of heart. I’m a little fish in a little pond, and that’s fine with me.

As John Mellencamp sang: “Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be.” And that’s good enough for me.


Living in the Past @JMmystery

Jeanne Matthews is happy to announce the arrival of a new historical mystery, Devil by the Tail, released 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.  

Since launching my new historical series, I’ve been living with characters born in the 19th Century and formed by the events that took place then.  They’re American.  They speak standard English.  But when it comes to societal attitudes and language, the past is a foreign country.  Some ways of thinking regarded as customary and conventional back then seem benighted today – the law of coverture that denied married women their rights, for example.  And it’s amazing how many expressions used in everyday conversation 150 years ago can sound puzzling to modern ears.  I’ve written a previous blog about some of the fanciful words invented in 19th Century America.  (Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln).  But there was a more somber, down-to-earth slang originated by the soldiers who fought in the Civil War.  That war was the most polarized period in American history, and yet men on both sides of the conflict would have known and understood the same figures of speech.

The urgency of battle gave rise to new idioms that encompassed sights and situations too brutal to describe and created names for things not previously encountered.  “To see the elephant” was a metaphor for going into battle for the first time, for gaining combat experience – usually at terrible personal cost.  “To open the ball” meant to begin the battle.  The “forlorn hope” was the individual or company chosen to lead the charge.  And as in every war, there were “skedaddlers” who deserted and “coffee boilers” who fled to the rear to make coffee, reappearing only when the danger had passed.

The war lasted longer than most men had thought when they joined up to fight, so they coined the ironic saying “all in three years.”  It came to mean anything that disappointed or went awry.  For many who fought, their whole lives went awry.  Severe injury, pain, disability, lingering nightmares, and profound grief led to a drug epidemic.  Morphine, laudanum, and opium addiction were common.  The symptoms diagnosed today as “post-traumatic stress syndrome” were generalized back then as “soldier’s heart.”  And those who watched their loved ones suffer had to “keep a stiff upper lip.”  Although the expression is associated with British stoicism in the face of adversity, it originated in America in the 19th Century.

Some lingo is regional or specific to a particular place.  The characters I’ve been writing about run a detective agency in Chicago, a city with a history of crime and political corruption that dates back to its incorporation in 1833.  By the time of the Republican Convention in 1860, its reputation for bribery and skullduggery was so entrenched that “Chicago” became a verb.  “Lincoln will be Chicagoed!” predicted the Weekly Democrat, meaning that he would be beaten by his Democratic opponent as a result of back-room, underhanded “shenanigans” – another florid, faux-educated word of the era.  But in the seamier parts of town, to be Chicagoed meant to be literally beaten.  Most likely to a pulp.  As the newspaper reported, “The city is infested with a horde of thieves, burglars, and cut-throats bent on plunder, men who will not hesitate to burn, pillage, and even murder.”

Chicago was home to a large number of Peace Democrats, a faction of Northerners who opposed war with the South.  These so-called “Copperheads” were disparaged in the Northern, Republican newspapers as traitors and cowards.  Copperhead was a dirty word. There was even a song written about the Chicago Copperheads.

There is a band of copperhead snakes,

crawling along the northern lakes.

The snakes are filled with fear and woe,

Up Salt River they’re bound to go.

To be rowed up Salt River was another colloquial phrase that could mean, depending on the context, that either you’d lost an election or someone had beaten you within an inch of your life.

The same obscenities we hear today were no doubt in use during the 1860s.  But in spite of the coarsening influence of war and rough conditions on the docks and in the stockyards, people didn’t swear as freely as they do today – with the notable exception of a Michigan copper miner named Samuel W. Hill.  Notorious for his filthy language, Sam Hill evolved into a mild synonym for “hell.”  People avoided outright blasphemy with minced oaths.  They substituted “by George” and “by golly” for “by God” and ladies could exclaim “Land sakes” without being accused of taking the deity’s name in vain.

Writers of historical fiction strive to immerse their readers in a bygone era, but the bubble of belief can be burst by a single out-of-its-time word or detail.  In Devil By The Tail, I did my best to stick to the lingua franca and social mores of the period.  But I also tried to bring a modern sensibility to my main character.  Her frame of reference and mine could not have been more different, but the desire for personal and professional freedom is timeless.

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.



Three winners will receive an Audible download
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.

Not So Well-Behaved

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to tell us about her time in Newport, RI, and how the rich lived in the Gilded Age.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.   //

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” So said Pulitzer Prize winner and historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in a 1976 American Quarterly article. Actually, a version of it was coined between 1668 and 1735. Author Therese Anne Fowler used it as a title of her book about Alva Vanderbilt.

Born Alva Smith, she came from a Southern family left destitute after the Civil War. She married into the Vanderbilts, who were ignored by New York’s old-money circles. Undaunted, Alva set out to break the Gilded Age’s stained-glass ceiling. She wound up building 9 mansions and foisted her daughter on a duke—a common practice when rich Americans pawned their daughters off on impoverished aristocrats. It was a title traded for a castle’s upkeep.

During what was termed “The Gilded Age,” the wealthy built summer “cottages” in Newport, Rhode Island. These were incredible mansions, with each wife trying to outdo each other. The clique was dubbed “The Four Hundred” because that’s how many people fit into a ballroom. I bought a cookbook while I was stationed at the Navy base. One menu listed 19 choices of main courses and 13 dessert choices. I don’t think I could pull off the Escalope of Veal Saute a la Macedoine. I might be able to handle clam hash. Perhaps a Wickford Quahaug Pie since I lived above a quahaug shop.


It was 1973 and Newport was my first duty station out of dental school. I wrote home that the town was like “Disneyland without rides.” Many of us rented apartments instead of staying in the barracks. I rented an attic apartment built at the turn of the century. The street was paved with cobblestones. From one window I looked down on the village green and the tall ships at the pier; from the other window I saw the church where JFK got married. All this for $60 a month and an obstinate radiator.

We toured the beautiful mansions, went to bars to sing sea chanties and ate twin lobsters for $7. All this on my salary of $300 a month. Some of my friends rented coach houses; the men off the USS Forrest Sherman rented the converted kitchen and the top floor of a mansion where we played frisbee and flew kites on the lawn.

I enjoyed my time until I woke up one morning and the radio announced “It’s a beautiful 12 degrees out!” I started crying and couldn’t stop. I’m from California. I don’t do snow. That’s when I took a transfer to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. On New Year’s Day I was suntanning at Blue Beach. And that is a whole other adventure for another time.