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What happens when a Jersey girl falls in love with the Florida sunshine? Lois's life changed when she made sultry Tampa her home. It might have been the subtropical heat that forced the stories out of her head and into the books she writes. The southern migration has allowed her to pursue her passions; cooking for family and friends, growing orchids, and learning tennis. Her food blog, the Culture and Cuisine Club, continues to push the envelope of dinner club creativity. She's obsessed with art in all forms, and her interests are the entrées that fill her books with a fillip of sexy seasoning to spice things up. On most weekends she can be found enjoying the perfect cocktail with close friends.
Women of Murder and Mayhem Come to Dinner
The dinner table is set with my best china, silver and crystal. The centerpiece is stunning. The flowers, lily of the valley, are a favorite of one of my dinner guests, Agatha Christie. Yes, I said Agatha Christie. At this dinner part my literary heroes will share conversation and a fabulous dinner. This is your invitation to dine with five women of murder, mayhem, and mystery.
Vera Caspary, the author of one of my favorite books, Laura, was the inspiration for the redesign of the room for this auspicious evening. It would be a crime in itself not to pay homage to the elegant rooms featured in the movie adaptation of her novel.
The amazing Mary Roberts Rinehart will be in attendance. A prolific writer, her story, The Bat, inspired Bob Kane and Bill Finger to create Batman for DC Comics. Her murder mystery, The Circular Staircase, was groundbreaking in the genre, and is still in print. P.D. James has graciously accepted my invitation to dinner, and I am serving her favorite meal. Mary Higgins Clark, the reigning queen of American murder mysteries, will also be in attendance. It will be a lovely evening, and you are invited to be the seventh guest.
I have done my research for this dinner party, so I am well aware that Agatha Christie is a teetotaler, and that P.D. James imbibes with decorum. I have prepared a raspberry iced tea and sparkling cider for them. Mary Higgins Clark requests a glass of California Chardonnay. Mary Roberts Rinehart sips at a delicate vessel filled with a choice sherry.
The authors all know of each other’s work, yet we have never met. How should one begin an evening of conversation with this group of literary icons? We agree that the best way to get acquainted is to introduce ourselves by sharing a tidbit of information not generally known to the public. We also dispense with formality and call each other by our first names.
“I’ll go first,” I say. “ My name is Lois When I was a child I would hold my breath under water for as long as I could. The adults thought that I was drowning.”
“My name is Agatha,” the celebrated author says. “I have a weakness for cream. I drink it every day, and when I work I keep a cup of it next to me. I can’t help myself.”
“I am Mary.” The chicly dressed woman speaks clearly, and her eyes sparkle as she surveys the room. “I have a small pet peeve—I love my food quite hot.” She catches my eye. “Don’t worry, dear, we can always pop mine in the microwave.”
“I’m Vera,” the next author crisply adds. “Mine is not a happy fact. I was not given proper screenwriting credit for Laura. Otto Preminger and I didn’t see eye to eye on many things. He had his own vision and did not honor my views as the author.”
“Many women did not get credit for their literary accomplishments,” a formally dressed woman agrees. “I am also Mary. I will share with all of you that Sir James Barrie called my work ‘lowbrow.’ So what? I always wrote my stories to intrigue my readers, to build suspense with style.”
“And so you did, my dear,” P.D. James says. “The Circular Staircase established many formulas of the mystery genre that are still utilized by writers today. My personal tidbit is this—I observe people from an almost clinical perspective. I hope it does not come off as cold. Don’t all writers pull back to observe a person as a possible character in a future book? Oh, and please call me Phyllis.”
“I certainly do,” said Mary H. “I always say that if someone is mean to me I simply write a character like them into my next book and kill them off.” The ladies laugh as we move to the dining room for dinner.
We begin our meal with a small bowl of my famous Italian wedding soup. The meatballs are small and light in texture. The silence as my guests eat gives me the reassurance that they like it.
The pasta course is next. I have prepared two choices; a penne with a plain marinara and Mary H’s favorite, linguini with white clam sauce. As I fill her pasta bowl the steam rises and she gives me a big smile.
The meat course is a nod to Phyllis. Duck with a crispy breast, new potatoes, and fresh peas are served with a side sauce of a Grand Marnier reduction for those who want it. After a few bites, she nods in appreciation. “Delicious. Everything is absolutely perfect.”
Dessert is simple. Scones and clotted cream, a strawberry sorbet, and a lemon pound cake with tea and coffee.
After our meal we replenish our drinks and relax in the family room. The violin concerto in D-minor OP. 47 by Jean Sibelius plays softly in the background and Phyllis and I share a smile. Mary H. swirls the ice in her Chivas Regal.
“Let’s have a game,” Agatha suggests. “A traveling murder mystery. We’ll each pick a number out of a hat and proceed in order. Each of us will add a sentence in turn, until we reach the point when someone will be murdered. What do you think?”
I retrieve a piece of notebook paper out of the kitchen drawer and quickly make up seven slips of paper, fold them and drop them in a small basket. One by one the mistresses of murder draw their number and settle back to think.
“Who has number one?” Mary R. asks.
“I do,” Vera said. “Are we ready?” Everyone agrees excitedly to begin.
“She did not die well,” Vera says. “Let’s start with the murder and back into it.”
“… The well shod ‘ladies who lunch’ whispered at her memorial service,” Mary H. adds.
“Her life had been one calamity after the next, and eventually chaos became as commonplace as afternoon tea,” Phyllis says.
“She had thought that a relaxing weekend spent at her cousin’s country estate would have allowed her to consider Sebastian’s proposal of marriage,” Mary R. comments.
“He is a wonderful catch,” you add shyly.
“A little too full of himself, but then most barristers are,” Agatha says with a smile.
“He was in London when it happened, his alibi confirmed by thirty other members of his club,” I add proudly.
“Would the members of his aristocratic club lie to protect one of their own?” Vera asks.
“The police were unimpressed by the tears and protestations of innocence,” Mary H. says.
“She had disappeared into the woods. Her horse, sans rider, returned hours later and the concerned host sent out a search party,” Phyllis adds.
“It must have been a tramp or a poacher, the host insisted,” Agatha says. “None of my guests could ever do such a thing.”
Suddenly, the lights went out and a woman’s scream pierced the darkness. Would you have expected anything less?
by L.A. Lewandoswki
Born to Die: The Montauk Murders is set amongst the glitz and glamour of the Beau Monde. The 80th birthday of Miranda Richards, an art-world icon, boasts the party of the summer at her exclusive mansion on Long Island. Old resentments and convoluted relationships bubble to the surface as an eclectic, A-list cast of characters celebrate at a Masked Ball. The luxurious trappings of success, however, don't hinder the agenda of an invited guest with a score to settle. Friends and family are left to wonder... Will I be next? Follow Detective Steele as he sifts through the evidence before the killer strikes again.
by L.A. Lewandoswki
After escaping the brutal murders in Montauk, L.I. Katherine Montgomery breathes a sigh of relief and settles into her sophisticated mansion on Tampa Bay. Her nights are filled with dear friends at the Gaspar Gourmets dinner club. Katherine's life seems ideal until a close friend dies. But the accident may not be what it seems, and Detective Frank Olson is assigned to investigate. Katherine is immediately attracted to the smart, handsome detective. She can’t help but wonder if his interest in her is as a woman or a suspect. When another friend dies after an elegant event attended by the local elite, it becomes obvious there is a common thread. Katherine’s world is turned upside down as the police investigation focuses on her intimate circle of friends. Frank follows a trail of clues, leading him to suspect a malignant secret curdling below the serene surface of the Gaspar Gourmets. Can he solve the puzzle before the killer strikes again? And has the exhibit of the Santeria paintings exposed Katherine to a murderer's evil agenda?
Meet the rest of the #eNovAaW
Women of Murder, Mystery & Mayhem
Women of Murder, Mystery & Mayhem
Julie Frayn pens award-winning novels and short stories that pack a punch. And a few stabs. She has published three novels and two short, short story collections. Her work has won two gold medals in the 2013 Authorsdb cover contest, and the Books and Pals 2014 Readers’ Choice award for women’s fiction.
A bean counter by day, Julie revels in the written word. When she is not working or writing, she spends as much time as possible with her two children (grown adults, really), while they still think she’s cool.
by Julie Frayn
It Isn't Cheating If He's Dead
by Julie Frayn
Colleen Connally is a pen name of Jerri Hines. Under Colleen Connally, she has written a historical romance series, Secret Lives, which is riddled with romantic suspense. The Secret Lives consists of Seductive Secrets, Broken Legacy and Seductive Lies. Fragmented, Book One of Boston’s Crime of Passion, marks Ms Connally’s first contemporary suspense thriller. One can find other historical series under Jerri Hines, including Winds of Betrayal and Tides of Charleston. Coming soon, she will release a Civil War saga, Southern Legacy, beginning with Belle of Charleston. She is also a supporter of The One Fund, a charity supporting the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing, and Alzheimer’s Association.
by Collen Connally
The Heavens Shall Fall
by Jerri Hines
Author, Mimi Barbour, has five romance series at this time. The Vicarage Bench, a Spirit-travel, Time-travel Series / Angels with Attitude Series – Angels Love Romance / The Vegas Series—fast-paced, thrilling and loved by readers / Elvis Series—make an Elvis Song a book, and her latest suspense series with gritty characters, constant conflicts and emotional highs and lows sharing humor on every page, The Undercover FBI series.
“Mimi says - I’ve taken early retirement on Vancouver Island to spend my days and many nights, hovering over my computer and spinning the stories that have been vying for my attention over the years.
My husband is supportive, drags me out to feed me and plans occasional forays into the outside world. I have a son who makes me happy I was born a woman so I could be his mom, and a niece whose family adds to my full cup of happiness.
Special Agent Francesca
by Mimi Barbour
Special Agent Finnegan
by Mimi Barbour
A Navy brat and graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, LORRIE FARRELLY is proud to be a Fightin' Banana Slug. Following graduate school at Northwestern University, she began a career in education that included teaching art to 4th graders, drama to 8th graders, and finally, math to high school students.
She's a three-time winner on "Jeopardy!" She has shepherded wide-eyed foreign exchange students along Hollywood Blvd, and has happily curried and shoveled as a ranch hand at Disneyland's Circle D Ranch. And always, she writes.
Lorrie has won a Presidential Commendation for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics. She's been a Renaissance nominee for Teacher of the Year and a finalist for the Orange Rose Award in romantic fiction. Her novels have been awarded Readers' Favorite 5-Stars. TIMELAPSE and TERMS OF SURRENDER are winning MEDALISTS in the 2014 READERS' FAVORITE INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS. Lorrie and her family live in Southern California.
by Lorrie Farrelly
The Guardian's Angel
by Lorrie Farrelly
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