Welcome to the fourth themed post about Mystery Thriller Week, an annual event celebrating the Mystery and Thriller genres!
Over two-hundred authors are participating in this global event. To help readers and authors better connect, a variety of themed lists – sub-categories of both genres – have been created.
Today I’m thrilled to share with you eight books from the Amateur Sleuth Mysteries and Thrillers Theme. Authors Ritter Ames, Mary Angela, Colin Garrow, Kaye George, Tomasz Chrusciel, Joynell Schultz, Judy Penz Sheluk, and Catherine Dilts have kindly provided a description of their amateur sleuth and novel. I’ve also included information about my own amateur sleuth mystery. Click on the book cover to link to Amazon where you can read an excerpt and learn more about the author.
According to Goodreads, “an amateur sleuth mystery features a protagonist who, having no direct ties to the police or other investigative agency, stumbles upon and sets out to solve or help solve various crimes, most notably murder. They do not receive monetary compensation for their investigation.”
This description perfectly sums up the novels listed in Mystery Thriller Week’s Amateur Sleuth Mysteries and Thrillers Theme. Fancy yourself an armchair sleuth? Then cozy up with one of these great titles and get cracking!
Be sure to sign up as a reviewer or Super Fan on the MysteryThrillerWeek website to be kept up-to-date of all the fun games, prizes and giveaways taking place during the event, February 12 – 22, 2017.
I look forward to seeing you there!
But first, let’s take a closer look at some of the wonderful books in this category…
Counterfeit Conspiracies by Ritter Ames
Laurel Beacham was raised understanding that art must be available to everyone, and she’s more than resourceful when rescuing masterpieces. When the need arises, she can operate like a savvy hostage negotiator, a brilliant museum curator or even a canny cat burglar, all to regain brilliant works that would otherwise disappear from the public realm. She was born to a life a privilege, until her father squandered the family fortune, and she still trades on the family name when opportunities allow—but has no qualms about utilizing the resources built from an association of snitches, thieves or grifters when needs require unconventional means. Saving art is always her objective.
Counterfeit Conspiracies opens with Laurel re-appropriating a work of art with an unconventional method, then moves on to what should have been a simple pickup during a fundraising event which doesn’t come off as planned. Things go from bad to critical when in London she discovers she’s picked up a shadow who may be more dangerous than she first believes. From Italy to England to France, she must use every trick in her Prada bag to keep herself out of trouble and move closer to the historic art objective she’s been commissioned to retrieve. All while realizing this item could be the beginning of a dangerous art heist payday for a criminal organization.
An Act of Murder by Mary Angela
Ask any devoted mystery reader about a favorite series, and he or she will tell you: amateur sleuths are addictive. But why? Is it their fearlessness, their recklessness, their super-sleuthing strength? Or none of those. Maybe it’s their plain old ordinariness that makes them so compelling.
I don’t read a lot of mysteries with protagonists who work for the FBI, CIA, or insert-another-acronym because let’s face it: they’re supposed to find the bad guys. It’s their job. They’ve been trained and paid to catch criminals. But what about that local storeowner with the knitting shop who finds a body dumped on her doorstep? What skills could she possibly have to solve a murder? It turns out, a lot more than we realize.
Here enters the amateur sleuth, and she looks a lot like us. She uses the knowledge she acquires from everyday life to solve a mystery. To me, that’s what makes her so interesting. I know I will never be in Special Ops., but a bookstore owner? Maybe. It puts me in the center of the action.
My protagonist, Emmeline Prather, is an English professor whose special skills include reading and research. Since grad school, her mentors have encouraged her to delve deeper, so when one of her students dies on campus, she uses her investigative skills for a new purpose: to uncover the truth about his death. Possibilities abound. Actors, fraternity brothers, and even faculty members will come under Em’s scrutiny while she canvases the campus. And while her actions won’t endure her to college administrators, they certainly will to her fellow professor and cohort, Lenny Jenkins, who finds himself charmed by her sense of poetic justice. Will their relationship become more than collegial? Readers will have to wait to find out.
Whatever happens, though, my amateur sleuth will be ready. She will struggle to balance family, friends, and the ever-looming prospect of tenure. No doubt she will make mistakes in life and love. But I think readers will forgive her because she, like all of us, is only human. And that’s what we love about amateur sleuths.
Death on a Dirty Afternoon by Colin Garrow
Death on a Dirty Afternoon is set in a mostly-fictitious version of a northeast seaside town in England, where I lived for a while after finishing university. The story was inspired by my own experiences as a taxi-driver in the early Nineties (in a different seaside town), though the novel is set in the present. Creating my protagonist, I never liked the idea of trying to represent police officers in a realistic way, so I made my hero an ordinary guy with ordinary problems and tried to think how ‘normal’ people might deal with discovering a dead body in their house:
When he learns of the death of taxi-driver pal Frank, ex-cabbie Terry Bell assumes it’s natural causes, but when he finds a note pinned to his front door and a corpse on the living room floor, things start to look suspicious – and not just because the murder weapon has Terry’s prints all over it. As if that wasn’t enough, old school friend Charis is in charge of the police investigation, and her elfin-like smile may not be enough to keep Terry off the list of suspects.
Launching his own investigation, the canny cabbie sets out to retrace Frank’s movements, tracking down anyone who might be able to shed light on the driver’s final hours. A taxi job leads to Swedish building contractor Elise Andersson, who could well be involved, but the tight-lipped lady poses more questions than answers.
Teaming up with Carol from the taxi firm, Terry meets a bald-headed man who knows a little too much about Terry’s recent activities. Then, finding himself unwittingly recruited into what could well be a Geordie crime family, it looks like the part-time sleuth is caught between one bunch of villains and another. In any case, when a third body turns up, Terry and Carol realise they need to stay out of sight. Only trouble is, their choice of hideout is a little too susceptible to arson…
Don’t forget to check back here on February 1st to read about Colin’s Literary Heroes and Amateur Sleuths.
Eine Kleine Murder by Kaye George
Cressa Carraway is on her way to being a professional classical musician. She’s the musician I imagine to myself that I might have been, had I gone into it professionally. She plays keyboard and I play violin, but we both like to compose and conduct. The difference is, Cressa actually GETS to conduct eventually.
As the story opens, Cressa has gotten into a bad situation with a professor at De Paul in Chicago, where she’s studying. To escape his obsessive attentions, she decides to visit her Gram at the rural Illinois lake resort Gram has moved to. Is Len following her as she drives through the endless flat cornfields? How could he? He doesn’t know where she is…does he? It’s getting dark and she can’t tell if that car behind her is his. What makes her even more nervous is that her Gram is not there when she arrives at her cabin. A neighbor suggests she probably went for a late night swim, which is her habit. Cressa suits up and heads to the small sand beach. No, she’s not there. However, when Cressa swims across the lake and lowers her legs to touch bottom before swimming back, she makes an awful discovery.
This is the first Cressa Carraway Musical Mystery. The second, Requiem in Red, came out in February of 2016.
Don’t forget to check back here on February 14th to read my review of Kaye George’s novel Choke.
Fast Track to Glory by Tomasz Chrusciel
Nina Monte has worked hard to achieve her dreams. At thirty-six she’s one of Italy’s youngest professors, and renowned for her knowledge of the ancient world. Old religious texts might make for lonely companions at night, but that’s nothing a bottle of fine wine can’t fix.
When a mysterious summons presents a career-making opportunity, Nina can’t resist. A relic has been found in a 15th Century galley and it’s the kind of discovery encountered once in a lifetime. But floating atop the depths of Lake Garda at the recovery site, Nina senses something is amiss. With local hotelier, Alessandro Pini at her side, she begins to unravel the truth surrounding the relic. She soon realizes that questions of the past pale in comparison to the dangers looming in the present.
The mystical object in Nina’s hands is no trinket; it has the power to change humanity’s perception of existence. And many believe a gift like that is worthy dying—or killing—for.
Don’t forget to check back here on February 21st to read my review of Fast Track to Glory.
The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery by Jennifer S. Alderson
Zelda Richardson, an American art history student at the University of Amsterdam, is the Amateur Sleuth in The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery. During an internship at the prestigious Amsterdam Museum, Zelda works on an exhibition of artwork, paintings and sculptures once stolen by Nazis, still unclaimed by their rightful owners seventy years later.
When two women claim the same portrait of a young girl entitled Irises, Zelda is tasked with investigating the painting’s history and soon finds evidence that one of the two women must be lying about her past. Before she can figure out which one it is and why, Zelda learns about a collection of masterpieces hidden somewhere in Amsterdam, secreted away in 1942 by a homosexual art dealer who’d rather die than turn his collection over to his Nazi blackmailer. And that Irises is the key to finding it all.
Zelda finds herself thrown into the role of amateur sleuth when the woman she believes to be a liar, convinces the museum her paperwork is authentic. Her investigation into past and present events attracts the attention of someone willing to steal – and even kill – to find the lost paintings and reclaim what they see as their own. When her apartment is ransacked and her life threatened, Zelda realizes she has to track down the lost collection and unmask a killer if she wants to survive.
Love, Lies & Clones by Joynell Schultz
In “Love, Lies & Clones,” the protagonist, June, is a clone of her mother. She’s just a “regular person” with a ton of flaws that gets sucked into trying to find her father. She struggles with an ethical dilemma of keeping her father’s secret or going to the police with it for help. Because of having to keep the secret of being a clone her whole life, she has trouble trusting people.
June never asked to be cloned from her mother’s DNA. She also didn’t ask for her faulty heart or the necessity of keeping her origins a secret. Now, her father’s missing and her only help may be an AWOL military man who won’t leave her alone. He keeps insisting June’s father and his missing brother are connected. Can June trust someone with her secret… and her heart?
Skeletons in the Attic by Judy Penz Sheluk
Skeletons in the Attic is set in the fictional town of Marketville, which is located about an hour north of Toronto, Canada. My protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable, a single city girl forced to move to Marketville, describes it as a commuter town where folks with two kids, a cat, and a collie moved to looking for a bigger house, a better school, and soccer fields. It is loosely based (and very much fictionalized) version of Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, where I lived for several years.
Callie Barnstable inherits a house in Marketville – a house she knew nothing about — from her father, who died in an “unfortunate” occupational accident. The catch: she must move into the house and find out who murdered her mother thirty years before. A mother Callie believed had left “for the milkman or some other male equivalent” when she was just six-years-old.
Don’t forget to check back here on February 20th to review my review of Skeletons in the Attic and an interview with Judy Sheluk.
Stone Cold Blooded by Catherine Dilts
Life hasn’t gone the way Morgan Iverson expected. A widow too young, her children have flown the nest, leaving her feeling irrelevant and alone. When her brother asks her to manage the family rock shop for two weeks, she believes the temporary change of scene will do her good.
On day one, she learns her brother is not returning. On day two, while chasing the shop’s escape-artist donkeys, she finds a body on a trail. The killer thinks she witnessed the murder. If Morgan doesn’t solve the crime, she’ll become as extinct as the fossils lining the rock shop’s dusty shelves.
Distracted by life or death adventure in the Colorado mountains, Morgan makes new friends and begins healing. She starts walking charity 5Ks, is adopted by the local church ladies, and takes a chance on middle-aged romance.
Solving a murder, mostly by accident, gives Morgan a reputation. In book two, she is recruited to solve a fifteen-year-old cold case for a recovering alcoholic who needs closure in her daughter’s disappearance. While investigating, Morgan discovers a rare gemstone that sparks a dangerous treasure hunt.
In book three of the Rock Shop Mystery series, Morgan’s reclusive neighbor is blown to bits. The police believe he stumbled into his own trap, but his granddaughter claims he was murdered. She asks Morgan and newspaperman Kurt Willard to find his killer.
Morgan’s budding romance with Kurt is threatened by the unexpected appearance of his Hollywood ex-wife. She worries that pregnant donkey Adelaide will never drop her foal. When alien hunters invade the rock shop, Morgan is happy to escape to a mineral and fossil show in Denver. Until her hopes for success there turn to disaster.
A feud between Morgan’s uncle and her dead neighbor could provide clues to his demise, but memories of the events decades ago don’t add up. In book three of the Rock Shop Mystery series, a Triceratops brow horn may hold the key to solving a prospector’s Stone Cold Blooded death.
Don’t forget to check back here on February 6th to read Catherine’s fascinating article entitled ‘The Tale of the Dinosaur Tail’.
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