Clouds in My Coffee
The Country Club Murders, #3
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Henery Press
Date of Publication: May 10, 2016
Number of pages: 256
Cover Artist: Stephanie Chontos
When Ellison Russell is nearly killed at a benefactors’ party, she brushes the incident aside as an unhappy accident. But when her house is fire-bombed, she’s shot at, and the person sitting next to her at a gala is poisoned, she must face facts. Someone wants her dead. But why? And can Ellison find the killer before he strikes again?Guest Post:
Add in an estranged sister, a visiting aunt with a shocking secret, and a handsome detective staying in her guesthouse, and Ellison might need more than cream in her coffee…
I have a confession. I never much liked Hercule Poirot. I’m not sure if it was the smug assurance that he was the smartest person in the room or the mustache.
That said, I adored Miss Marple and her adventures in St. Mary Mead. She appeared as soft and fluffy as a ball of angora yarn. Of course, appearances deceived. And St. Mary Mead? It was a veritable hotbed of jealousy, venality, and murder hidden behind the sleepy charm of an English village.
When I began writing my first mystery, capturing that same sense of waters running deep was important to me. Since what I know about life in an English village would fit atop one of the keys to my laptop, I chose a country club as my setting—a country club in the 1970s where the same small set of people interact day in and day out.
When I think of country clubs, I think of swim team and the clack of golf cleats on concrete, Lilly Pulitzer shifts and the scent of sunscreen (in the 1970s that would have been suntan lotion), the reverberations of a tennis ball on a freshly strung racket and wine, impossibly tan children gathered round a table in the snack bar and drinks on the terrace, club parties and a hellacious June bill that arrives with the firecrackers. I think of people who have known each other since birth and still speak to each other (most of the time). I think of ladies’ lounges, afternoons spent at the bridge table, club sandwiches, lemon bars, and lemon drops kept in an apothecary jar next to the receptionist’s desk. I think of shared histories and a sense of order.
Ellison Russell, the heroine in the Country Club Murders, thinks of those things too. She also ponders infidelity, gossip, the pressure to conform, and, in the most recent Country Club Murder, the importance of family—even as her home and life are invaded by a madcap aunt and a self-centered sister.
“You’ll have to take it yourself. Aggie is on loan.” Then I remembered Aunt Sis. “I’ve already got someone in the blue room. I’ll put you in the rose room.”Need I add that both Aunt Sis and Marjorie stay at Ellison’s? And that murder ensues?
“But the rose room has twin beds.”
This was not news to me.
“I hate twin beds.”
That wasn’t news either. “You can always stay with Mother and Daddy.”
“Where’s Greg? Is he coming?”
“He’s at home with the children.” Her voice sounded flat, emotionless. Prudence’s sly innuendos flashed through my memory. Uh-oh.
“Is he flying in for the gala? You’re welcome here, but there’s a new hotel on the Plaza—the Alameda. I don’t think you’ve been there yet. I could book you a room.”
“No, you haven’t been there, or no, you don’t want a room?”
With a chic flip of her wrist she flicked a stray hair back into place. “No, Greg is not coming.”
“I already told you, he’s at home with the children.”
“Did your au pair quit?”
“What about your housekeeper? Did she quit?”
“Then why isn’t he coming?”
“Just drop it, Ellison.”
There was trouble in Paradise. “Do you want to talk about it?”
We stared at each other. It would be a cold day in hell before Marjorie looked for succor or support from her younger sister. I got that. But her insistence on being superior meant we’d never be close. It also rendered her right (and maybe left) flank open to attack.
“You need a better answer.”
She curled the corner of her upper lip and glared at me as if I was the problem. It was the kind of look one can only give a sibling. No one else would forgive it. I might not forgive it.
She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean–and she’s got an active imagination. Truth is–she’s an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.
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