Did you know that among the twisted vines in the Livermore Valley, murder lurks? Did you know that going organic can kill you?
Who knew? Well, I knew, because I just finished reading two new mysteries from a couple of first-time Livermore authors, Carole Price and Staci McLaughlin.
Carole Price's book "Twisted Vines" (Five Star Publishing) debuted last week to excellent reviews. No wonder, since the book is set in Livermore and Carole is a longtime resident. So what made this former Sandia/California National Lab employee write a murder mystery combining Shakespeare and wine, after retiring from her job?
"I'm a huge mystery reader," Carole said. "And I fell in love with the Bard after seeing plays in Ashland." She not only did her research by studying Shakespeare (and drinking wine?), she also volunteers for the Livermore Police Department, which gives her insight into police procedures. "After getting fingerprinted, taking a drug test and a polygraph test, I get to work local events and even role-play with the SWAT team. I've been shot at with rubber bullets and paint guns, handcuffed, and tossed to the ground. Who said research wasn't fun?"
"Twisted Vines" features crime analyst Cait Pepper, who inherits a vineyard and two Shakespearean theaters from a mysterious aunt and soon becomes a target for murder. Her investigation forces her down a road paved with lies, secrets, arson, murder ... and a few blasts of birdshot.
With the help of handsome Navy Seal Royal Tanner, she solves the mystery and embraces her new life in the Livermore Valley.
Staci McLaughlin, the author of "Going Organic Can Kill You" (Kensington), is a stay-at-home mother of two busy boys. How she manages to write mystery novels in between making peanut butter sandwiches, going to the park and doing all the rest required of a young mother is a mystery to me.
Although she's lived in Livermore for the past 13 years, her story takes place in the fictional Northern California town of "Blossom Valley."
"I tinkered with writing a book for many years," Staci said, "so when I left my job as a technical writer, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to become more serious about the craft. I opted for the fictional town of Blossom Valley to provide more flexibility with the story -- and so I could give the businesses fun names, like Get the Scoop ice cream, Spinning Your Wheels tire shop, and Running on Fumes gas station. "
"Going Organic" tells the story of Dana Lewis, who moves back home after being laid off from her marketing job. She's hired at the O'Connell Organic Farm and Spa for a marketing position, but her job soon transforms into a hodgepodge of chores that include collecting chicken eggs, mucking out the pig sty and taste-testing the healthy-yet-often-unappetizing dishes created by the spa's cook. When a guest is murdered at the farm, Dana decides she'd better solve the murder before the spa shuts down for good and she's out of a job -- again.
Carole and Staci have teamed up to promote their new books this month, along with award-winning Livermore mystery writer Ann Parker ("Mercury Rises," Poisoned Pen Press.) You can find their upcoming tour dates and support your local writers at www.carolepricemysteries.com and www.stacimclaughlin.com.
Reach Penny Warner at www. pennywarner.com.