Gun Street Girl grips readers with complex plot

Gun Street GirlDetective Sean Duffy, a tough, hard-drinking, Catholic in the Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) is fatigued and considering retiring from his job. This is 1985 Belfast, Ireland, where protests and bloody riots are typical nightly events. Duffy is called to the scene of a double murder of a husband and wife. To Duffy, this appears to be a professional hit. The next day, the main suspect, Michael Kelly, who is the son of the murdered couple, is discovered at the bottom of a cliff, the victim of an apparent suicide. Duffy is not convinced by this neat, tidy package. He suggests getting more information on Kelly’s background and friends.

The investigation into Kelly’s background leads to another apparent suicide, this time Kelly’s girlfriend. Duffy’s questions multiply and nothing seems to make sense. As Duffy continues to follow the clues, he gets warned off and threatened. When MI5 Agent Kate Albright offers Duffy a position working with her that would take him off his case it only makes him more determined to find the answers he needs to solve the murders.

The investigation takes Duffy to Oxford, where he runs into resistance from both the British and American Governments. Duffy discovers Michael Kelly is a link to a case of stolen missiles currently being worked by Special Branch agents. With the reluctant cooperation of Special Branch and RUC, Duffy finds himself in the middle of gun runners, arm dealers and murders. If he makes one wrong move, it could be his last.

The plot of “Gun Street Girl” is tight and complex with lots of action. There are plenty of twists to keep the reader engrossed to the end. Fans of the Sean Duffy novels will find this a must read.

Double Agatha winner Leslie Budewitz discusses new series

Assault and Pepper (Final)Leslie Budewitz has, in her relatively short career as a writer, racked up some impressive credentials. For this interview, the national bestselling author and winner of two Agatha Awards, talks about food, cats, dogs, and one of her favorite places, Seattle.

“I fell in love with the Pike Place Market in Seattle first as a college student, and later as a young lawyer working in downtown Seattle,” said Budewitz. “I ate and shopped in the Market weekly, never tiring of exploring the nooks and crannies, finding new food and art, and soaking in the vibrant street scene. I returned to Montana, my home state, twenty-some years ago, but my husband loves Seattle, too, and we visit often.”

Even today, Budewitz recalls the sights and smells from those early days with fondness. “I ate my way through the city’s famed Pike Place Market at least once or twice a week. I’d start at the main entrance with a slice of pizza from DeLaurenti’s walk-up window, then browse the magazine covers at the First & Pike Newsstand—eyes only until my hands were clean!

“I’d sip a sample cup of tea from Market Spice while watching the fishmongers throw salmon and amuse the crowd with their comedy routine, pick my produce and cheese for the week, and end with dessert—a hazelnut sablé from Le Panier, the French bakery, or a Nanaimo bar from a now-departed take-out joint in the warren off Post Alley.”

Budewitz’s background as an attorney later helped her launch her writing career. In fact, she won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction for “Books, Crooks & Counselors: How To Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure.” Her fiction debut, “Death al Dente,” won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, making her the first author to win an Agatha for both fiction and nonfiction. Fast forward just two years and Budewitz is already debuting a new series, the Spice Shop Mysteries.

“My Food Lovers Village Mysteries are set in Montana,” said Budewitz. “When I decided to try a second series—I’m hoping to continue them both—I naturally thought of Seattle.  An urban cozy needs a defined community, and the Pike Place Market fits the bill perfectly.”

With her background in law, is it any wonder that Budewitz believes the theme of a book comes from its characters? “I like to explore various aspects of a theme in the plot and subplots, so that the reader comes away thinking about the topic from a range of perspectives, consciously or not. In ‘Assault and Pepper,’ the protagonist and secondary characters are working out questions of identity, particularly choosing who they will be in the world, and the line between protecting someone and interfering with their choices. All while selling spices, cooking up great meals, and solving a murder.”

“I write about food because I love to eat and cook, and food brings people together like nothing else,” said Budewitz. “All the recipes in my books are real, much-tested, and easy to follow and make in the average home kitchen. I’m part of a terrific group of mystery writers who cook up crime—and recipes—and share them on the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen blog at www.MysteryLoversKitchen.com.”

While the star of the cover of “Assault and Pepper” is an Airedale, her Food Lovers Village Mysteries feature a cat. Budewitz explained why she gave equal time to both. “I love cats and dogs equally. I know, hard to believe, but true. The cat on the cover of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries is based on our cat, a sable Burmese and avid birdwatcher. The Airedale is a bit of a mystery to me—I’ve never owned an Airedale, but he walked onto the page with Sam one day and I knew he was going to stay.”

More information

For more tales of life in the wilds of northwest Montana and bonus recipes, visit Leslie Budewitz on her website at www.LeslieBudewitz.com. Those who want to stay in touch can also subscribe to her newsletter on the website.

From the mail bag: Apple Pay

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 4.19.49 PMWith all the data breaches over the past couple of years, it’s no wonder that Apple Pay is being well-received by consumers, retailers, and financial institutions. The service has the potential to exponentially improve consumer-buying security whenever a purchase is made.

Traditional point-of-sale payment processing relies on the exchange of your credit or debit card number along with other sensitive information. As we’ve seen in far too many cases, all a hacker has to do is crack the firewall once to monitor a company’s transactions. For as long as the breach goes undetected, the hacker collects the purchaser’s information for every single transaction.

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Apple Pay operates by creating a single-use token for every transaction. This eliminates the need to pass card and other sensitive information for the transaction. The network of merchants who accept Apple Pay is growing. Someday, the service may become as commonplace as point-of-sale terminals are today. Unfortunately, with new ideas come new opportunities for scammers.

The email I received is, I believe, the tip of the iceberg. It’s targeted at small business owners who likely have heard about Apple Pay and might be interested in taking payments via this method. The links in the email I received led to a website located in Gujarat, India that has been blacklisted for phishing and/or malware distribution.

This week’s Sunday Scam Tip is to play it safe when it comes to paying or collecting money. If you’re a consumer and want to learn more about Apple Pay, visit the information page at Apple.com. If you’re a merchant, check with your current payment processing service. In both cases, you’ll learn a whole lot more about Apple Pay from a legitimate source than you will from a scammer out of India.

Friday Fotos—a wedding on the Big Island

As Darker Grow the Shadows by Mj Roe

Mj Roe’s third romantic suspense novel is set in 1939 France, just as France braces for war with Germany.

These photos were taken in mid-January on Hawai’i, the Big Island.  The picturesque Hapuna Beach on the Kona coast provided an idyllic scene for our daughter’s wedding at sunset. Sightseeing in the few days we had after the event took us from the coffee plantations in the southwest, to the Martian-esque landscape of Volcanoes National Park in the southeast, and scenic parks with waterfalls in the north on the way to Hilo.

This week’s Friday Fotos were provided by award-winning, romantic suspense author Mj Roe. Mj’s third novel, “As Darker Grow the Shadows” begins just as France is bracing for war in 1939. Learn more on her website at www.roezes.com.

I’m always on the lookout for good Hawaii photos. If you have some you’d like to share, let me know and we’ll talk about featuring your shots on Friday Fotos!

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NYT bestseller Laurie R. King discusses Dreaming Spies

Dreaming SpiesSherlock Holmes is hot today. From TV and movies to novels and short stories, the famous sleuth remains ever-popular with readers and writers. Historical-fiction novelist Laurie R. King also caught the bug to write about the famous detective, but chose a different path. In this interview, the Edgar-winning author talks about her latest novel, “Dreaming Spies.”

The path chosen by King was not to write the typical Sherlock Holmes detective story, but to place Holmes in the position of companion detective as he works with his wife, Mary Russell. Fans of the series know that Mary met Sherlock Holmes when she was fifteen and became his student. Now, many years later, their relationship has matured into sleuthing peers who are also husband-and-wife.

“This is one novel that came out of my desire to go to a place, rather than my experiences with having gone there,” King said. “A couple of books ago, I planted a mention that the characters had stopped off in Japan to do a job for the Emperor—even though the then-Emperor was in no condition to be hiring stray detectives. That led me to Prince Regent Hirohito, Emperor in all but name.” King added that she wanted also to tie that clue in the 1924 adventure into the series timeline.

As a result of her urge to travel, “Dreaming Spies,” which takes place in 1925, is set in both Japan and Oxford. In addition to enjoying the use of fascinating settings, King also likes to play with issues in her stories. She described how those two interests have worked together to create a bestselling series.

“Because I love books with substance, and particularly because I’m a recovering academic, I like to set the adventures in a time and place that also lets me play with wider issues. ‘The Game’’ takes place in northern India where, a century later, the US is bogged down in the same war fought by the British Raj. ‘O Jerusalem’ looks at the decisions made by the British in Palestine, with results that we see on modern headlines. The ‘issues’ in ‘Dreaming Spies’ are less specific, but they are there, and center around the eternal questions of power and responsibilities.”

This self-proclaimed “recovering academic” enjoys writing the Mary Russell series for another reason. “Historical fiction holds up a fun-house mirror before the modern reader: we’re looking at ourselves, but with a twist—one that can reveal unsuspected truths. Yes, I write what Graham Greene called entertainments: my goal is a rousing good read, preferably in a colorful part of the world, often a suspense tale with my series characters, Mary Russell and her partner/husband, Sherlock Holmes.”

King isn’t completely immersed in the early 1900s, however. She has an unusual interest in toilets. She said, “I went to Japan with two friends who run a bookstore and a small press. Barbara Peters from Poisoned Pen and I just fell in love with the stunning variety, attention, and individuality found in Japanese toilets and restrooms. So much so that she and I ended up writing an illustrated toilet-based travelogue, ‘Not in Kansas Any More, TOTO’.”

In addition to an Edgar, King also has an honorary doctorate in Theology. It should come as no surprise that a writer of King’s caliber puts that to use also. “A number of my books contain religious ideas and institutions. Since murder—fictional or not—is driven by passion—and is there anything more passionately fought over than religious beliefs? Too, my academic background is in Old Testament, which is not only all about stories, but stories where small phrases or omissions can be as weighty as the clues in a mystery novel.”

King says it’s amazing how often the characters in her books share her interests. Extraordinary coincidences? Or well planned? Only King knows for sure, but her fans certainly relish the overlap. They also send her mail that reflects how closely the identify her with her characters.

Readers find it easy to confuse author and character,” King said. “When I wrote a novel with the injured protagonist suffering from headaches, I got a lot of sympathy letters about the migraines I clearly had. And I often have people say they’re surprised that I don’t have an English accent. So let me say straight out: I am not Mary Russell. She’s a whole lot brighter and infinitely more competent.”

More information

To learn more about Laurie R. King, visit her website at laurierking.com.

Book & a Latte Contest

What: This month, Laurie is giving away two hardcover copies of “Dreaming Spies” and I’m adding two $5.00 Starbucks gift cards. Two random entries will be chosen as winners. Each winner will receive a book and a gift card.

How to enter: Choose one or more of the options below. Each option gives you an additional chance to win.

Who can enter: This contest is only open to continental US residents over 18 years of age.

When: Contest closes at 12:00 a.m., March 15. Winners will be selected on Sunday, March 16.

Verification of entries: All winning entries are subject to verification. Winners must claim prizes with 5 days.

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The Lynchpin—a twisty serial-killer mystery

The LynchpinSpecial Agent Drew Cady is working part-time at the FBI’s Medicare Fraud Strike Force in Minneapolis when he’s asked to investigate a murder in which a young woman’s body has washed ashore on Lake Superior. The police are asking for help because the woman’s blood was drained from her body and replaced with embalming fluid.

Cady is barely into what is being called the “Lookalikes” case when Special Agent Elizabeth Preston calls to tell him their previous boss, Assistant Director Roland Jund, has killed an intruder in his home. Cady flies to D.C. to meet with A.D. Jund. As Jund is describing details of the incident, Cady receives a call telling him the intruder has been identified as another FBI Agent.

The only clue to solving Jund’s case appears to be a notation on his calendar titled “Lynchpin.” Cady and Preston only know the notation references top secret meetings about a Russian spy, but their investigation is being stonewalled by FBI and CIA secrets.

While Cady is in D.C. he feels obligated to investigate the Lookalikes case. Searching the FBI database, he discovers three missing girls with identical matching descriptions of the Lookalikes murder victim. When another body washes up on Lake Superior’s shore, Cady flies to Minneapolis to find the killer even as A.D. June is implicated as the Lynchpin.

Torn between his two cases, Cady realizes he may be in over his head and that he may have put the person closest to him in grave danger.

“The Lynchpin” characters are realistic with distinctive speech patterns. The plot moves quickly, containing enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing until the end. Those who like their protagonists flawed will like Cady, who is tough, but caring, and struggling to have a solid relationship with his fiancee.

The Russian bride email scam and equality of the sexes

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A large number of emails have been floating around the internet offering up Russian brides. With all that activity, one might think we were going through another California gold rush. The problem is that given our hypersensitivity to being politically correct and focusing on equality of the sexes, these emails raise a fundamental question of fairness. Where are the Russian groom emails?

Does it seem fair that only “young, beautiful” women should be offered up as lures to reel in lonely, unsuspecting men? Aren’t plenty of women lonely, too? Why shouldn’t women have the opportunity to give away their personal information to scammers offering up “handsome, hard-working Russian husbands?”

To be truthful, I have seen one email about “Russian singles.” There was a small picture of one man in the email. Perhaps this email proves there are at least a few industrious Russian men around. Or maybe it proves the scammers have realized they’ve missed a potential market.

Sadly, the guy in that email was actually a professional model—as were the two women. Yes, all of the images used were available from online photo sources such as Getty Images and iStockphoto. Since the real faces behind the email probably belong to haggard, overweight men, I can see why they used photos of professional models.

It’s also possible the scammers believe women simply wouldn’t respond to a ridiculous solicitation offering them a husband. That possibility seems unlikely, but it does exist. I think its time we let them know what you think, so here’s a question. What do you think, ladies? Are you tired of only seeing emails for Russian brides? Wouldn’t you like some spam to help you find a Russian husband? Leave your answer in the comments below. (And no, I won’t spam you if you join in!)

Friday Fotos—rocky shores

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On Kauai, there are plenty of rocky shores. This week, we’re taking a look at those down in the Poipu areas. In fact, we’ve even got Spouting Horn spouting. Do you know the legend about why there’s a rhythmic moaning at Spouting Horn? It seems a little Hawaiian boy named Liko was chased into the cave beneath the sea by a giant lizard. The boy escaped, but the lizard was trapped and, to this day, he moans because he wants out of the cave.

By the way, I’m always on the lookout for good Hawaii photos. If you have some you’d like to share, let me know and we’ll talk about featuring your shots on Friday Fotos!

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Superfluous Women author discusses little-known fact from WWI

Superfluous WomenYou can take the girl out of Britain, but you can’t take the Britain out of the girl. Or, so it might be said of Carola Dunn. In this interview, the author of more than fifty mysteries and regency romances discusses her upcoming novel “Superfluous Women” and the historical importance of the title.

The idea for the book came to Dunn when she discovered a book by Virginia Nicholson titled “Singled Out.” Dunn said, “In the first decade of this century, she [Nicholson] went looking for surviving women of the affected generation. She interviewed them about their experiences, their choices, their emotional lives, and she read the memoirs of some who had already died.”

“Superfluous Women illuminates a little-known result of the First World War,” said Dunn. “So many British men were killed in battle that hundreds of thousands of women found themselves extremely unlikely to become wives and mothers, as they had been brought up to expect. The press labelled them ‘Surplus’ or ‘Superfluous’ women, and even suggested they should be encouraged to emigrate to the [British] colonies to provide wives for male colonists.”

One of the things Dunn includes in this historical mystery are the various ways these superfluous women deal with this drastic change in their lives. According to Dunn, “It affected the expectations of later generations of women, too. For instance, one of my characters has qualified as a Chartered Accountant—the first woman to do so in England was in 1919. Her job and her skills play an important part in the story. She is not the sort to repine, but another of the three deeply regrets the unlikelihood that she will ever bear children.”

“Superfluous Women” is set in Beaconsfield, Bucks. Dunn said, “I grew up in a village a couple of miles away, and my brother still lives there, so researching the setting was easy.” Setting and history aside, “Superfluous Women” is a mystery set in 1920s England which begins with the classic mystery plot element of a body in a locked room.

Dunn said, “The Honourable Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher, on a convalescent trip to the countryside, goes to visit three old school friends in the area. The three, all unmarried, have recently bought a house together. They are a part of the generation of ‘superfluous women’— brought up expecting marriage and a family, but left without any prospects after more than 700,000 British men were killed in the Great War.”

In the book, Daisy and her husband, Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard—, go for a Sunday lunch with Daisy’’s friends. One of the women mentions a wine cellar below their house, which remains curiously locked, no key to be found. Alec offers to pick the lock, but when he opens the door, what greets them is not a cache of wine, but the stench of a long-dead body.

“And with that,” Dunn said, “what was a pleasant Sunday lunch has taken an unexpected turn. Now, Daisy’s three friends are the most obvious suspects in a murder and her husband Alec is a witness and can’t officially take over the investigation. So, before the local detective, Inspector Underwood, can officially bring charges against her friends, Daisy is determined to use all her resources (Alec) and skills to solve the mystery behind this perplexing locked-room crime.”

After she had written fifteen Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, Dunn realized that while Daisy was still in her 20s, she herself had aged considerably. She started a new series, the Cornish mysteries, with a protagonist of her own age, Eleanor Trewynn.

Dunn said that she started writing mysteries because the two Regency publishers she was writing for at the time both stopped publishing Regencies within six months of each other. She said, “It gave me the incentive I needed to try something new. When I proposed the Daisy Dalrymple series, I titled them Death in January, Death in February, and so on, because I was tired of thinking up titles for my Regencies. Each murder was to have some connection to the named month.”

One thing Dunn hadn’t considered was the issue of longevity. Dunn is now thankful that the publisher was concerned about it. “The publisher who bought the first didn’t care for the idea—luckily, as I don’t know what I’d have done once I’d used up all the months.”

Writing isn’t Dunn’s only passion, however. “I’m a dog-person,” she said. “I enjoy walking, gardening, reading, classical music, chocolate, playing the recorder, and baking bread; I abominate housework. Whether murder or romance is my subject, all my books have a sense of humour. And I still use UK spelling.”

More information

In addition to her mysteries, Carola Dunn has also written 32 Regencies, which are still available as ebooks. Learn more about Carola Dunn on her website at www.CarolaDunn.weebly.com.

The Rachel Ray, Oprah, and Forskolin diet emails

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Dieting options are all the rage. The emails about various celebrities who have lost weight (and usually gained it back) are inundating email inboxes. Whether we’re talking about Oprah, Rachel Ray, or Dr. Oz’s carb-killing super-ingredients and carb blockers, those emails sent to your inbox have one purpose in mind, lure you to a website where you’ll give up your precious information.

How Rachel Ray dropped four dress sizes or what Dr. Oz has to say about belly types or Forskolin is not the point of this post. Every person’s body is different and the weight-management solution that works for one person may not work for another. That part, you have to figure out on your own. What this post is concerned with are the attempts by scammers to make money off of consumers who are either desperate for a solution and will try anything or who don’t recognize email scams when they see them.

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 10.18.32 AMThe email comes in looking something like the one shown here. It offers a chance to try “Rachel’s secret pill” for free. What could you lose? In the worst case, the answer would be, how about your identity? The link for the email shown here goes to a website registered to Lawrence Phelps. So does the domain used for one of the Oprah diet emails. And the one for “The Doctor’s Slimmer.” And, and, and . . . Are you starting to see a pattern?

There are other players in this diet email game. The domain owners all have one similar mode of operation. They inundate email inboxes with a variety of “miracle diet pills.” The sites I checked were not listed as hosting malware or as phishing sites. However, they did redirect to a common server, which makes this little universe of emails smack of appearing to be nothing more than spam used to sell a product that may not even be legitimate.

The bottom line is that you should not trust the emails. It took me about a minute to turn up a couple of safe websites where they have information about two of the plans I discussed here. If you really want to know more about the Rachel Ray diet, try this post by Prevention Magazine. For information about Forskolin, ywdiet.com covered it here. You can find additional information on the web about almost any diet plan, but be careful where you surf to avoid being scammed.