Posts Tagged ‘Mystery’

tracyTracy Weber is the author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series.  The first book in the series, Murder Strikes a Pose, won the Maxwell Award for Fiction and was nominated for the Agatha award for Best First Novel.

A certified yoga therapist, Tracy is the owner of Whole Life Yoga, a Seattle yoga studio, as well as the creator and director of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any way possible.

Tracy and her husband Marc live in Seattle with their challenging yet amazing German shepherd, Tasha. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house.

Karma’s a Killer is her third novel. For more information on Tracy and the Downward Dog Mysteries, visit her author website: http://TracyWeberAuthor.com/

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Karma’s a Killer. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it? 

A: Karma’s a Killer is a light-hearted yoga and dog-related mystery. The story opens at a fundraiser for DogMa, a fictional Seattle animal rescue. While teaching a Doga (yoga for dogs) class, yoga teacher Kate Davidson meets an animal rights activist named Dharma who has a surprising connection to her past. Two days later, Dharma is arrested for murder. The case seems cut and dry, especially since Dharma’s ID was found at the scene and her skin is lodged underneath the victim’s fingernails. Dharma, however, claims she’s innocent, and Kate vows to ferret out the truth.

In this, the third of the Downward Dog Mysteries, readers learn the origins of Kate’s pogonophobia—the irrational fear of beards. They also discover why she has, at least up until now, been so terrified of commitment. Although most of the book is about Kate’s somewhat inept attempts at murder investigation, her German shepherd Bella and her best friend Rene get her into plenty of trouble along the way. But the most satisfying part of the book watching Kate rediscover herself.

Many things inspired me to write this book. I’ve had a fascination with animals my entire life, and wildlife rehabilitation plays a large role in the work, as does animal rescue. However the most intriguing prospect in writing this book was truly delving into what makes Kate such quirky character. I always knew that Kate had a back story and that she needed to reconcile experiences from her past. Karma’s a Killer gave me the perfect avenue to explore them.

book_coverQ: What do you think makes a good cozy mystery? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: There are many important elements to good novels of any type. But with cozy mysteries, I think it boils down to relatable characters, engaging settings, and an intriguing mystery.

Recurring characters are especially critical, because they come back to visit the reader time after time, book after book. If your characters aren’t compelling, why would a reader waste their time hanging out with them?

Setting allows the reader to travel to places they might otherwise never visit. Well-developed settings immerse the reader in the “place” of the story using all five senses—perhaps even six. (See discussion on setting, below.)

Mystery is the backdrop of cozies—the guiding force of the story, if you will. Without an intriguing mystery, what’s the point?

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: My stories reveal themselves to me as I write, which means I never outline before I begin working on a book. Who has time to outline when you’ve got characters like Kate and Bella harassing you to hurry up and write them?

My process has remained relatively unchanged from book to book. I write the first draft by the seat of my pants, then sit down and get serious about plot, red herrings, and consistency in the second draft.

While I write the second draft, I outline what I’ve already written and identify plot holes and inconsistencies. I try to fix those in the third draft.  After that, it’s only twenty-seven more drafts until the finished product!

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: Like my plots, my characters reveal themselves to me as I write. Some, such as Bella (the German shepherd in my series) are loosely based on animals and people from my real life. Most, like Kate (my yoga teacher/sleuth protagonist) take shape in my mind over time. I get to know them much like I’d get to know any other friend. Minor characters are tougher. Sometimes I write descriptions and back stories for them. Most of the time, I don’t. In many cases, I come up with minor ideas for these characters or picture them in my mind. Then I do Google Image searches. The images and websites that come up inform my understanding of those characters.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: I’ve gotten better at this the more I’ve written, I think. I try to make my killers more multidimensional now than I did in the past. After all, we are all the heroes of our own stories. From the killer’s perspective, they had a perfectly good reason for committing murder. I try to see the story through their eyes, as well as through the eyes of my protagonist.

What drives a good person to commit a heinous act? What about that act changes them forever? What stays the same? How do they go back to their normal life now that they’ve ended another’s? No one is purely good or purely evil. The gray area makes writing interesting.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: For me it’s about something I’ll call consistent variety. I get bored when I read scenes that have essentially the same sentence structure paragraph after paragraph. It feels annoyingly repetitive to me, like the ticking of an out-of-time clock. Then again, there has to be a consistent voice that sets a work and its writer apart from the six million other novels vying for readers’ attention. I work hard to vary sentence length, imagery, tone, and rhythm within my work.

Additionally, I try to avoid information dumps and back story. Nothing bogs down a fast-paced story quicker than overly long descriptions, info dumps about the author’s research, or too much unneeded information about a character’s history. Show us who the character is now. Let their actions speak for them!

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: As I stated above, I use all five senses when describing a setting: smell, sight, taste, sound, and touch. I also use a sixth sense that I can only describe as energy: Some places feel light; others heavy; still others, prickly. And the energy of a space changes based on the perspective and mood of the character inside it.

In Karma’s a Killer, my editor noticed that I described to the same setting quite differently in two separate scenes. At first she suggested that I change it, but when I pointed out the mood of the protagonist in each scene and how her experience of the setting would change based on that mood, she agreed that I should keep it as originally written.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I write a mystery series, so most of my writing revolves around solving murder. But ultimately, my books are all about love, whether it be in the form of friendship, romance, family, or the unconditional love of an animal. The primary characters in my novels are often very flawed, but they all have one thing in common: the mistakes they make, the risks they take, the regrets they mourn, even the idiosyncrasies they struggle to overcome—all have their basis in love, with a little obsession thrown in for good measure.

My newest book, Karma’s a Killer, is also about reconciliation. How would you react if a woman who’d abandoned you thirty years ago showed up on your doorstep looking for help? What if you found out that much of who you are—good and bad—comes from her? What if you have villainized her your entire life? Would you still be willing to help? And if so, how would helping her change you?

Those were fun questions to explore in Karma’s a Killer.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: It’s an interesting question, and an author would answer it much differently than an editor, I suspect. The biggest risk in editing is destroying voice. An editor’s work is to make the narrative crisper, the sentence structure more varied, the plot more solid—all without losing the author’s unique voice. A good editor makes voice crackle. A bad one dulls it until it is unrecognizable.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: Imagination, perseverance, and probably most important, luck!

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: Writing is hard work, but I don’t think of it as homework—more like a time to play with my imaginary friends. If I thought of writing as homework, I’d probably never do it. It is much too challenging to stay motivated unless you love it.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: I’ve benefited greatly from workshops that I’ve taken with the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Sisters In Crime, and Mystery Writers of America. I have a bookcase filled with books on the craft of writing, but I haven’t read a single one of them.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: Writing is as much about perseverance as it is about talent. Don’t give up, and don’t procrastinate. Write every day. Write what you love. If you spend every day working on what you love most, even if you never get published, you’ll have had a good time. Isn’t that what’s most important?






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RMCARTMEL_GARDENBorn into a military family, R.M. Cartmel was educated at Sherborne School in the South West of England and at Oxford.  Cartmel served as a practicing doctor for over three and a half decades. As a novelist Cartmel combines two of his lifelong loves—writing and traveling throughout France’s exquisite Burgundy region.

Connect with the author on the web:

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Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Charlemagne Connection What was your inspiration for it?

A: It is the second book in a series of books set in the famous wine making part of France called Burgundy. Originally when I retired I was looking for a novel set there, and when I couldn’t find one I decided to write one. That was The Richebourg Affair, which was set in the spring in Burgundy. The second book, The Charlemagne Connection is set in high summer of the same year, and the third of the trilogy, which I am writing at the moment, is set during the vintage.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: He is a small middle-aged rather tatty policeman, who is obviously very capable at his job, as he has reached the rank of Commandant [translated as Commander] in the French National Police. He has been married but it never worked out.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: Having finished Richebourg, it was just the right time to go to Nuits Saint Georges to experience the flowering of the vines, so I set off to do the first piece of research, in France. I also needed to discuss the legal issues in the book, and the forensics. It took round 6 months to create the first draft, including finding out that some of the forensic detail I had got wrong, and that needed a rewrite. But as I had not actually finished the first draft when I hit that glitch, it wasn’t enormously difficult to write round it.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: I have no idea, it happens. Charlemagne pretty much wrote itself, so the plot I found exciting as I went along.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: No. None of the process causes anxiety. I may not always be able to produce text that I like, but it is not a cause for anxiety. That of course may happen when I start to get behind a deadline, which is a place, so far I have never been.

Charlemagne_cover_webQ: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: There is no other work outside writing. My son lives in my house but he too has a job so we meet when we meet.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Someone I know from the past telling me that they loved my book and when’s the next one out?

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: If you want to write, and your consort doesn’t want you to write, then you either have to not write or change your consort. I can’t help thinking that if the conflict is irreconcilable, then don’t try. What a horrible place for someone to be. Is that idea copyright, there may be a novel there?

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: Obviously not! If I did I wouldn’t be a writer.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Never ever think you can do it all alone. Write the first draft of book, and then be prepared to let it fly. Send it to an editor to polish it.

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Death-is-Always-a-Resident-Ecover_9781462124763_FULL (1)Jan Myers is a widowed mom and director of the Forest Hills Skilled Nursing Facility in Ohio. One day she receives an unexpected visit from Detective Pollander from the Columbus Police Department, asking unsettling questions about a Mr. Packard Nickle, who used to be a resident but had suffered a heart attack and died recently.

Jan and the staff are disturbed by the detective’s visit, especially after he begins interrogating the nurses and aides.

Soon the reason for the detective’s visit becomes obvious: there’s been either negligence or murderous intent surrounding Mr. Nickel’s death, and the whole facility is put under the microscope, especially Jan, who’s the director. It turns out the victim was a very difficult and demanding man, and most nurses and residents would have cheerfully strangled him. Jan won’t be able to get any job in Ohio when he’s through. The list of suspects begins to pile up, and it’s up to Jan to investigate the case, especially now that she’s also a suspect…and someone wants her dead.

Death Is Always a Resident is a well written cozy mystery that kept me turning pages and wondering who the killer was until the end. Jan Myers is a likable protagonist, a kind, hard-working woman with problems of her own, with a high sense of justice and integrity. Her mother and her daughter are secondary characters that add flavor to the story.

The setting was very real to me, making me think that the author either did her research well or has experience with nursing facilities. This is the type of tale where the police stay sort of in the background while the civilian protagonist investigates on her own. The pacing felt right for this cozy–not too quick like a suspense thriller, yet not too slow to drag. There’s also a sprinkle of romance for good measure. In short, it is a nicely written, well-structured and plotted little mystery. I look forward to reading more books from this debut novelist!

Purchase from Amazon.

My review originally appeared on Blogcritics

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Title: The End of Healing

Genre: Suspense

Author: Dr. Jim Bailey

Website: www.endofhealing.com

Publisher: The Healthy City

Purchase on Amazon


Dr. Don Newman, a resident physician at the renowned University Hospital, awakens in a windowless call room in the middle of the night to the screams of his pager. As he runs to a dark ward to attend to a dying woman strapped to a bed, Don realizes that despite having worked long and hard to become a doctor—and having sworn to do no harm—harm has become his business.

So begins Dr. Newman’s quest to become a healer in a system that puts profits ahead of patients. Abandoning his plans to become a cardiologist, Dr. Newman enrolls in an Ivy League graduate program in health system science, where an unorthodox professor promises to guide him ever deeper into the dark secrets of the healthcare industry. Along with fellow students Frances Hunt, a sharp and alluring nurse practitioner, and Bruce Markum, a cocky, well-connected surgeon, Dr. Newman begins a journey into the medical underworld.

When Dr. Newman unearths evidence of a conspiracy stretching from the halls of Congress to Wall Street and even to his small campus, his harmless course of study becomes deadly serious. Will he be silenced? Or will he find a way to save his patients and others from needless torture? One thing is certain:  the path to healing is fraught with danger. Will this path lead Don to a dead end?

Jim Bailey Author Photo

About the Author:

Jim Bailey is a fellow in the American College of Physicians and professor of medicine and preventive medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, where he directs the Center for Health Systems Improvement, cares for the sick, and teaches doctors in training. His research appears in many peer-reviewed medical journals, including AMAJournal of General Internal Medicine, and Annals of Internal Medicine. Dr. Bailey has an abiding passion for the classics, medical history, and ethics, and believes that sharing our stories can heal. The End of Healingis his first novel.

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Look for my interview with the author tomorrow! 

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Silk HighRes (2)Title: Silk

Genre: Thriller

Author: Chris Karlsen

Website: www.chriskarlsen.com

Publisher: Books to Go Now

Purchase on Amazon

Any reader who enjoys a good mystery with a good dose of sex added will find Silk a tale they will want to read. While some scenes are more explicit than others, they do not detract from the mystery. The plot contains many facets and the reader must pay attention as they read to follow the story as it develops.
Talented author Chris Karlsen has crafted a story that shows how a self-centered wealthy man of the Victorian English era entangles himself in a habit that has disastrous consequences for many others as well. Verging on middle age and fearful of losing his youth he becomes interested in a strange formula he finds hidden in a book. To learn the secret, one must read the book.
The characters move through well described scenes, leading the reader on a twisting path into the hidden recesses of human nature where secrets await discovery by the reader.  These glimpses into human nature show realism at its best, lifting the characters into a lifelike status as they try to find satisfaction in life.
The reader will find Inspector Rudyard Bloodstone to their liking as he and his associate attempt to solve more than one murder case. Along the way, he allows the reader to see his humanity.
Silk will have readers looking for more adventures of Inspector Bloodstone by this imaginative author.  Recommended as an interesting, fun read for any mystery fan who likes that touch of Silk. Enjoy. I did.
Anne K. Edwards, author & guest reviewer

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WinterSpring 2008 399Robert Lane’s literary crime noir novels mix humor, action, and ageless moral themes set against the backdrop of the west coast of Florida. Cooler Than Blood is his second stand-alone Jake Travis novel after The Second Letter. His third book, The Cardinal’s Sin, will be released in October 2015.Q:

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Cooler Than Blood. What was your inspiration for it?

A: I yearned for a classic crime tale, in this case a kidnapped young woman, that, through twists and turns, circles back to my protagonist, Jake Travis. I desired a story arc, that in ways Jake could have never foreseen, threatens Kathleen, the “world’s most important person,” to Jake.  I wanted the story to force him into moral choices that will define and shape him. Where’s the inspiration? Instead of a faceless victim that the reader would have no feeling for, I was intrigued with the idea of a young woman who lost her father at a young age. She relies on the memory of her father and the lessons he taught her while boating, to persevere a kidnapping ordeal. The time she and he spent on the boat is all the fuel she has to survive her captivity. The only thing real, and inspiration, is the boat, but we all know the formula—1 percent inspiration and 99 percent work.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist. 

A: Jake Travis has struggled with who he is and is just now learning to accept himself. He cannot resist the thrills found on the edge of life, but they come with heavy consequences. Unfortunately, some of these consequences are moral ambiguities that are likely to re-occur. It’s the central theme in his life, and central themes do not fade or resolve.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way? 

A: My books are character driven—I have little clue as to how they will end. I usually see the end coming somewhere around two-thirds of the way through. That’s good—I think. Hemingway said if you know where your story’s going, so does the reader. Total writing time is about nine months, with half of that time in re-writes and crafting the words. Writing is a bumpy road. Sometimes it comes out smooth and clean, but that’s just the space between the bumps.

Cover ArtQ: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel? 

A: I don’t let myself get bored. Add humor. Conflict. More conflict. Physically move Jake.  In Cooler Than Blood, Jake gets a lead, hops in his truck with Garrett, and the story explodes as he meets other characters who, in turn, lead to the core of the story.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it? 

A: Not really. My secret is I flip open the laptop and hit it hard and fast. If I waited, even a minute, I know self-doubt would gain a foothold.  Also, I usually exercise before I write—let the endorphins meet anxiety at the gate and thrash it away.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time? 

A: I run or swim early in the morning and then write until my mind shuts down. By late in the afternoon, it’s been recharged enough to go a couple more hours. If I had sixteen free hours, the best I could do is write during five to six of those hours, and not congruently. That leaves plenty of time for other activities and obligations.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Doing my best used to be my mantra, my measuring cup for success. After I read Haruki Murakami’s excellent book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, I altered that stance. Success is exceeding my capabilities. Doing better than I thought I could do. Freeing my mind of self-imposed limitation and handicaps. That’s pretty elusive…but so is success.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author? 

A: Get a new a partner? That could be expensive. How about this: forget them. It’s your dream. Since when do you need the outside world to validate your goals and aspirations?

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree? 

A: I suppose I do, but that seems a little heavy, dare I say Orwellian? Lighten up. I don’t drill too deep into my compulsions, who’s got time for that? At some point, during the writing of every book, I’ve sworn off writing and rue the day I ever started. Is that so different than other professions and activities in our lives, or do writers just whine more?

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers? 

A: While reading my books, I hope you laugh, I hope you get choked-up, I hope you turn the page quickly to see what happens next, I hope you come across a mirror and ponder yourself, and I hope that is some small, immeasurable, speck-of-dust manner, all that gobbledygook gives you a better understanding and acceptance of your world.

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JRD1James Ryan Daley is a writer, editor, and digital designer. After earning an MFA in fiction at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2004, James has spent most of the years since teaching writing to college students, creating websites about video games, and editing anthologies of fiction and political rhetoric. When he’s not glued to his computer, James can usually be found skiing the slopes of Vermont’s famous mountains or sailing the harbors of Rhode Island. He lives in Newport, RI with his wife and two daughters.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Jesus Jackson. What was your inspiration for it?

A: While the plot of Jesus Jackson centers on a murder mystery, at its heart, it’s the story of a young man searching for answers to the same huge, impossible, unanswerable questions that we all ask ourselves all the time: Is there a god? What happens after I die? How well do I really know the people in my life? How do I make sense of all the crazy, sad, frustrating, and unfair things that life is constantly throwing at me? These are all questions that I struggled with quite a bit when I was a teenager (and still struggle with, frankly).  Jesus Jackson was a fun and intriguing way of exploring them.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: In this story, Jonathan is in a sort of philosophical limbo that I think a lot of people experience: he has come to conclusion that he doesn’t believe in any type of god or religion, but he hasn’t yet figured out how to deal with life’s challenges without a belief system to guide him. This story is largely about Jonathan coming to understand how to live his life in the absence of any specific religious faith.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: Writing the first draft of Jesus Jackson was actually a fairly smooth process: I woke up early every morning, wrote a few pages, and repeated until it was done. Revising the story was a whole lot less smooth. I had to go through multiple revisions (some of them quite extensive, and none of them easy) before I wound up with a finished product that I was really happy with.

jesusQ: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: I just always try to ask myself what would be fun to read about next if I were the reader instead of the writer. Usually that leads me to jump right into something exciting.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: I’ve always found that the best way to deal with that kind of anxiety is to avoid it. For me, that means waking up as early as I can stand to, and sitting down to write before I have enough time to start worrying about it.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A:  Most of my other work is done on a freelance basis these days, so my schedule is pretty flexible. That flexibility can be just as much of a curse as a blessing, though, because it’s easy to get caught up in other projects, especially when you’re approaching a deadline. That’s another reason why I try to write in the morning, before I have a chance to get distracted.  If I’m approaching an immediate deadline for my writing, though, then all bets are off: it’s just wake up, write, and keep writing until it’s time to go to sleep again.

Q: How do you define success?

A: As an author, I would define success simply having an audience. If there are people who read your book, enjoy it, and want to read your next one: that’s success.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A:  That’s a tough one. I’m extremely fortunate to have a wife who has always been supportive of my writing, and who happens to be an amazing editor, as well.  I honestly don’t know what advice I would give to someone whose spouse is actively against their writing, except to say that, sooner or later, they’re going have a pretty serious decision to make.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: Absolutely, though I tend to equate writing more with an incurable addiction than a painful illness. I feel miserable when I don’t write. I feel great after I’ve just finished writing. Most of the time, the actual writing itself is mildly disappointing, but every once in a while, it feels absolutely amazing.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Yes: that they should all go check out the trailer I made for Jesus Jackson. I basically spent half of my summer learning how to use professional film-making software, and the other half actually making this trailer. The response to it has been really amazing, so I am sure that they will consider it a well-spent 80 seconds. Here’s the link: http://youtu.be/iD3nMqCzjxo 

Book info:

Title:  Jesus Jackson
Genre:  Young Adult Mystery
Author: James Ryan Daley
Website: www.jamesryandaley.com
Publisher:  The Poisoned Pencil
The Poisoned Pen / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

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