4 out of 5 Stars
Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It’s up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it’s too late. It doesn’t help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn’t commit.
So, the first book in the Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection… and it definitely won’t be my last!! The fact that the book is a little over 100 pages and I had to CUT DOWN the… 15 or so quotes that I WANTED to use for the book?? I can’t usually find that many usable quote in a book that’s 400 pages!
Now, I can’t decide who is more my spirit animal… Jamie?
“My name is Jamie Quinn. Jamie isn’t short for anything; my mom just thought it was a good name, one that offered more opportunities than say Courtney or Brittany . She didn’t want to burden me with society’s stereotypes by choosing a name that was too girly, or sounded like a playboy bunny.”
I love that she’s strong and a little snarky. She’s willing to step into the fray for her family, even if it’s out of her expertise and comfort zone is really inspiring! The way Barbara wrote her narrative voice was fun, as well. She almost breaks the 4th wall with some of her comments and it was as though she was talking to us, the reader,
“It was way past lunch time and I was starving, so the first thing I did when I got in the house was make a sandwich–a peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich, to be exact. Now, I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking that sounds gross, but you shouldn’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. I mean, it’s not like I suggested you eat a sardine sandwich. Yes, somebody actually eats those. If you Google sardine sandwich, recipes pop up, I kid you not.”
And, she follows my sentiment, exactly, with my absolute FAVOURITE quote of hers!
“It’s strange how technology enhances life and diminishes it at the same time.”
So true, Jamie… so true…
Then, there is my second (would be) spirit animal, Duke. He’s a he’s a fast talking, fast drinking, fast loving kind of guy … and I absolutely adore him!
“You’d remember more if you weren’t always soaking your brain in booze,” I teased. “What fun would that be?”
He made me laugh, but you can tell that he really cares about people, and his work… I hope to see more of him in the future with this collection!
“Some work , some play, you know me, Darlin’.”
Now, on to the most important part of this review… the mystery!! Now… would I call this a cozy?? …I honestly don’t think that I would… do I CARE that it wasn’t QUITE a cozy?? ….NOT ONE BIT! It wasn’t the most twisted of tales. It was pretty simple as far as mysteries go, but it was entertaining from beginning to end, had good pacing and a murderer who made sense. WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED??
“The murder weapon was a didgeridoo, which was found at the scene.” “What the hell is a did-ger-i-doo?” “I had to look it up. According to Wikipedia, it’s an Australian Aboriginal wind instrument. Basically, it’s a long wooden tube around four feet long that can weigh up to ten pounds. This one weighed six.”
So… what the heck is a didgeridoo??? Well, here is a video so you can all see for yourselves!!
All in all, I flew through this book, and I can’t wait to start the 2nd in the series!! Tune in next week for my review of book 2: The Case of the Killer Divorce!
Pick up your copy here!!!
Or save yourself some time and just pick up the Collection Now!
Everyone’s a Character
Barbara decided to join me on my blog today with some thoughts on building her superb characters!
I used to be so careful. After all, every how-to book on the art of writing provides the same advice–don’t base your fictional characters on real people. While it’s okay to borrow a trait or a habit or a quirk, you should never borrow the entire personality or persona–at least according to the experts. It only leads to trouble and who wants trouble? Thus were born my composite people; I was Dr. Frankenstein and they were my creations, cobbled together from spare parts, leftover remarks, and funny anecdotes from long ago. My technique had three steps. I would start with a picture from a magazine of what I imagined my character looked like, usually it was an advertisement. Next, I would choose a name, working hard to ensure that it wasn’t already taken, that it wasn’t the name of someone famous or notorious (Google to the rescue), and, finally, I would invent a backstory for my character hoping it was original enough to pass muster. Not only did I want to avoid basing my characters on real people, I also wanted to avoid basing them on fictional characters. Considering that I’ve read thousands of books in my life I could have easily lifted a character unintentionally, believing it came to me in a dream.
That’s the challenge–to take traits from real people, incorporate those traits into fictional characters and make them seem like real people. Don’t think about it too hard or you’ll give yourself a headache–I know I do. It’s all about capturing an essence, like lightning in a bottle. Unlike some authors, I focus on dialogue more than physical description because characters can reveal so much of themselves by what they say, what they leave unsaid and by their body language. An emotion can be conveyed by simply raising one perfect eyebrow or by walking away. It’s difficult to portray realism in an artificial setting like a novel because most of what real people discuss is not novel-worthy–nobody wants to read about the weather or your Aunt Sally’s gallstones. The rule to remember is: Less is more. Every word of dialogue should pack a punch by furthering the plot or developing the character. Ideally, it would do both.
I must confess that one of my best characters I’ve created is Grace Anderson, BFF to my protagonist Jamie Quinn. To bring Grace to life, I demonstrate her sense of humor and her concern for Jamie through examples. The two women have been friends since law school and in a flashback Jamie remembers some of the practical jokes Grace pulled back then. When Jamie’s disabled cousin gets into trouble in the present, I show how Grace swoops in to help in concrete ways through her actions. Grace combines many of the qualities of my closest friends. As a result, my friends all see themselves in her. Grace is funny and smart, loyal and intuitive, she’s a blast to be around–who wouldn’t want to be Grace? But, although my girlfriends are all Grace, none of them is Grace
Now my husband is a different story, he is fair game and he knows it. If Jamie’s tree-hugging, romantic, smart-aleck boyfriend Kip resembles my husband, then my husband shouldn’t have been such a tree-hugging, romantic, smart-aleck. Whenever my husband says something funny, I write it down. I used to be sly about it, now I don’t bother. To be fair, I write it down whenever anyone says something funny, ironic, or crazy, but he is just a good source of material. Here’s an example: ever since our kids moved out, I barely cook; Suzy Homemaker has left the building (if she ever in fact lived here). One night, after I brought home take-out for dinner, my husband thanked me for doing that. To which I said, Of course! It was the least I could do. To which he replied I’m pretty sure you could’ve done less…
For those of you familiar with my body of work (and I love you, whoever you are), you may recall that my children were the protagonists of my first book, “The Fight for Magicallus”. That book started out as a joke, a motherly tool, you might say and came about because my boys wouldn’t stop playing video games. So I did what any mother would do, I wrote a story in which they were sucked into their video game and had to figure out how to escape. Ultimately, their only way out was to read a book. Not sure if they learned the lesson, but they did enjoy starring in their own adventure and I know for a fact that they read at least one book!
And so, family members notwithstanding, I have been conscientious about not pilfering people’s personalities for my books–until one day when tragedy struck. My cousin’s daughter died suddenly of heart disease at the age of twenty-seven. I flew to the northeast to be with them a few weeks after the funeral and it was then that my cousin’s husband asked me if I would do him a favor. I couldn’t imagine what it might be. When he asked if I could make Jessie a character in one of my books I was honored but also nervous about getting it right. I spent time with him poring over pictures and videos, learning more about my young cousin. I wanted to portray her accurately; she was such a free spirit despite her life-long battle with heart disease. Incorporating her love of dogs and preference for music from the sixties, I created a girl with purple hair who favored tie-dyed shirts and owned a rock-and-roll-themed dog rescue. Since her first appearance in “Engaged in Danger” Jessie has become one of my favorite characters and she makes me feel closer to the cousin I wish I’d known better.
Jessie’s character opened a door I didn’t know existed. Suddenly, friends and relatives were shyly coming forward to ask if they, too, could become characters in one of my books. I said, sure, if you write your own back story, pick your own name, and provide your physical description. You can be whoever you want to be, I’ll make it work. And that’s how my sister Jodi, a high-ranking executive at a cable network, became a master gardener at an assisted living facility happily tending to her plants in my current book, “Jeopardy in July”. What Jodi doesn’t know is how she will help Jamie Quinn solve the murders happening around her. All I can say is if Jodi wants to find out, she’ll just have to read the book.
Cozy mysteries are the perfect vehicle for me because I enjoy writing about funny, smart, quirky characters who sometimes make snarky remarks but who always look out for each other. Their situations may not be realistic, but their relationships are and their realistic and snappy dialogue is the reason.
Award-winning author Barbara Venkataraman is an attorney and mediator specializing in family law. Her works include: “The Fight for Magicallus”, a children’s fantasy; “If you’d Just Listened to Me in the First Place”, a humorous short story; and three books of humorous essays: “I’m Not Talking about You, Of Course,” “A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities,” and “A Smidge of Crazy”, from her series, “Quirky Essays for Quirky People.”
Her Jamie Quinn cozy mystery series includes: “Death by Didgeridoo”, “The Case of the Killer Divorce”, “Peril in the Park”, “Engaged in Danger” and, just released, “Jeopardy in July”. All of her books are available on Amazon Kindle.
Death By Didgeridoo is Best Served with some Forty Creek “Spike” Whiskey
Well, in honour of Spike, the poor drummer from “The Screaming Zombies”
“While I never speak ill of the dead (at least I never have before), I will make an exception for Spike. After watching his interview, I was able to draw certain conclusions: 1) he was stoned; 2) he was an egomaniac; 3) he was a legend in his own mind; and 4) he was nasty and mean. He did say one interesting thing though: every time he went on a drinking binge, he brought home a new German shepherd.”