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This is a Robbery – Documentary on Netflix

For those who have read Isabella’s Painting, you know that I incorporated the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, one of the world’s largest art heists in history, into the novel. A number of readers have been asking me about the new documentary, This Is a Robbery on Netflix.

First, yes, I have watched the miniseries. Second, from my own research done in 2016-2017, sadly, there is nothing new introduced into the documentary that I had not already discovered during my own research. Much of the material was available through old Boston Globe  and other newspaper articles, previous documentaries, and material found on the FBI website or Gardner site. That being said, this documentary has done an excellent job coalescing the information and presenting it to the viewer in both an entertaining and interesting manner. The documentary focuses on the mafia connection theories. I suspect, one of the reasons the Gardner Museum was so helpful to the documentarians, was in hopes that it will shed new light on the case, and someone who knows or has seen the art will come forward. With a $10 million reward on the line, it’s possible this new documentary will encourage just that.

One possible suspect the documentary focuses on during the second episode is Richard Abath, the guard who buzzed the robbers into the building the night of the heist. During my own research, I was able to interview retired FBI agent, Robert Wittman, who worked the Art Crimes division over the years of the Gardner investigation. When I asked him why Richard Abath was never arrested, he told me Abath had undergone numerous polygraph tests, over years, and the results were either negative or inconclusive. They could not link Abath to the stolen artwork, even though the security system recorded Abath as the last person to enter the Blue Room, from where the painting Chez Tortoni was taken.

I imagine if any of the artwork is ever found it will only be pieces of it. At that time, artwork could have flowed easily and quickly out of the country. If it still exists, it is likely spread throughout the world. However, there is always hope the paintings will turn up, like the over 1200  Nazi looted artworks found in Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment, 70 years after the war ended. Perhaps a grand daughter of a dead mafia capo will stumble across a storage locker, or hidden room filled with paintings. After all, stranger things have happened.

 

Women in History Month Series—Influential Authors

Agatha Christie

 

MARCH 26, 2021—For the end of my Women in History series, I look to a woman who is considered the best-selling fiction writer of all time, Agatha Christie. Guinness World Records lists Christie as having sold more than 2 billion books worldwide. My first introduction to Agatha Christie was not one of her books, but rather a movie that I happened to stumble upon while channel surfing. It was the 1965 version of Ten Little Indians. When I realized the movie was based on Christie’s book, And Then There Were None, I borrowed it from the library and was soon caught up in the midst of an exciting ride.

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquay, Devon in Southwest England, in September 1890. Her childhood education was erratic. At the age of 5 she taught herself to read. Her father homeschooled Christie until he fell too ill, then she spent time at a day school where she struggled with the discipline and strict schedules. A talented pianist, at the age of 15 her mother sent her to school in Paris to study piano and opera singing. However, two years later Christie determined she lacked the talent to become a concert pianist or opera singer; she ended her education and returned home. In 1912 she met Archibald Christie, and they were married in 1913. After WWI broke out, Christie trained and qualified to work as an assistant at a dispensary. Her new education in pharmacology and poisons helped develop her debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, where the world was introduced to Hercule Poirot. Christie bore only one child, Rosalind. Eventually her marriage to Archibald fell apart and they divorced in 1928. In 1930, Christie met archeologist, Max Mallowen, whom she married later that year. They remained married until her death in 1976. Throughout her lifetime, Christie wrote 75 novels—66 of them detective novels—and 14 short story collections.

Christie enjoyed travel and her train trip on the Orient Express in 1928 led to my favorite novel of hers, Murder on the Orient Express, another tricky case unraveled by detective Hercule Poirot. One of the things I enjoy about reading Christie is her heavy reliance on dialog to develop the plot and set up the murderer. There are times in Christie’s novel when the reader might find the pacing a bit slow, however if you skim over these points, you are likely to miss an important clue that will help lead you to the perpetrator. I admit that my own novels have very little resemblance to Christie’s style. While her story lines are quite methodical and deliberate puzzles to solve, my own mysteries are rather fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants style with a good bit of action, adventure, and dumb luck for my heroine, who is not a trained detective. However, I do try to use dialog to a similar advantage that Christie used hers, by explaining plot points and dropping clues.

One thing is for sure, Christie’s influence on the detective mystery genre cannot be overstated. She is credited with establishing the modern “murder mystery” rules. Christie enticed readers by trapping all of her suspects in one location—e.g., on a train, ship, or mansion—rather than running helter-skelter around town interrogating suspects. By bringing her colorful characters to a central location, and giving them all reasons for being the murderer, her detective slowly solves the puzzle and narrows the list until the murder is revealed. Even though the reader is not taken to a variety of locations, Christie’s dialog, scenes, and character development keep us captivated and willing to spend the entire book in that single location. Her mysteries were smart, clever, and suspenseful, and they still remain popular today.

Women in History Month – Influential Female Authors

Mary Stewart

MARCH 19, 2021—I was introduced to Mary Stewart through my mother. One summer, during high school, she gave me her tattered copy of Nine Coaches Waiting, and I was hooked. Stewart’s Wikipedia page describes her as, “a British novelist who developed the romantic mystery genre, featuring smart, adventurous heroines who could hold their own in dangerous situations.” I could not have written a better description of her writing style, and, as a reader who dislikes wall flower characters, Stewart’s strong female leads were right up my alley.

Stewart was born Mary Florence Rainbow, in Sunderland, England in 1916. She graduated from Durham University in 1938 with a Teaching Diploma in English and attained a graduate degree in 1941. During WWII she was a lecturer at her alma mater and met her husband Frederick Stewart, a professor of geology, at a costume party. They were married a few months later in 1945. They enjoyed traveling abroad, and the locales often made it into her novels. Her first novel, Madam, Will You Talk, was published in 1955, and became a bestseller. She went on to write 15 stand-alone, romantic mystery novels, a series of Arthurian legend stories, four children’s books, and a book of poetry. She passed away in 2014, a few months before her 98th birthday.

I remember the first time I read Nine Coaches Waiting (yes, I’ve read it many times since.) It reminded me of the dark suspense created by Daphne du Maurier’s, Rebecca. However, whereas du Maurier’s purposely unnamed protagonist spends much of her time wringing her hands and behaving foolishly, Stewart’s Linda Martin takes an active hand in mitigating the unknown threat that lurks in the shadows. While I enjoy both authors’ abilities to create suspense, it is Stewart who takes me on an escapade filled with action. It is one of the reasons, my character, Karina Cardinal, goes down the rabbit hole of adventure, even when friends warn her not to do so. It is a rarity that Stewart’s ladies come out of their escapades uninjured, unfortunately for Karina she also rarely comes out of her exploits unscathed, either physically or mentally.

Both Stewart and I write in the first person which gives the reader insight into our characters’ psyche. It can also amp up the suspense because the protagonist and the reader don’t know what their adversaries are doing behind the scenes. This style of writing plays out well in Stewart’s novel This Rough Magic, where the reader spends the first half of the novel questioning which man is the suspect. One of my favorite aspects about Stewart’s early novels is, even though they were written in her modern day, some of them are now over sixty years old. Because I enjoy that historical fiction facet, I’ve decided to write a short story mystery that takes place in the 50s or 60s—when ladies always wore dresses, and conservative conformity was at odds with the younger generation’s liberal rebellions.

For those who’ve never had the pleasure of reading Mary Stewart, I’ll end with my top 5 favorite picks so you can get started. Enjoy!

Top 5 Mary Stewart Novels

  • This Rough Magic
  • Nine Coaches Waiting
  • The Moonspinners
  • Airs Above the Ground
  • Wildfire at Midnight

Women in History Month – Female Authors Who Influenced Me

BARBARA MERTZ a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters or Barbara Michaels

 MARCH 12, 2021—I was a teenager when I was introduced to Barbara Mertz through the novel The Master of Blacktower, written under her pseudonym, Barbara Michaels. The tortured and cruel Gavin Hamilton hires poor, penniless, orphan Damaris Gordon as his secretary. The reader, along with Damaris, is drawn into a world of dark secrets that include crippling injuries and disturbing accusations. When I look up Mertz’s pseudonym’s online, her novels are labeled as suspense/thriller/mystery, but when I grew up reading them, the library and bookstores placed them under the “gothic” genre. In reality, her novels included romance, history, suspense, and supernatural elements centralized on highly curious, smart, and strong-willed women. Whether gothic or suspense, I remember staying up far too late, on a school night, to finish reading Damaris’s enthralling story.

Mertz was born Barbara Gross in September 1927, in Canton, Illinois and later married Richard Mertz in 1950. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and finally, in 1952, with her PhD in Egyptology. Her initial publications were nonfiction books on ancient Egypt, and her first fiction novel, The Master of Blacktower, released in 1966.

 

It was through Barbara’s nom de plume, Elizabeth Peters, that I discovered my own fascination with archeology, artifacts, and art crimes. Her three intrepid amateur sleuth series’ featuring Amelia Peabody, Vicky Bliss, and Jacqueline Kirby draws readers into such fantastical locations as the pyramids of ancient Egypt, crumbling Roman temples, or medieval German castles. Every story is woven with a witty and daring protagonist who jumps into each adventure with both feet.

Amelia Peabody’s trips to Egypt inspired me to incorporate an Egyptian artifact into my own Karina Cardinal mystery, Pharaoh’s Forgery. Her novels challenged me to take Karina on a trip of her own, down to sunny Mexico where her relaxing vacation goes awry, much like that of Jacqueline Kirby in The Murders of Richard III. Mertz’s mysteries also stirred the juices of my first Karina Cardinal novel, Isabella’s Painting, where I incorporated one of the highest valued art thefts in history. I also learned, through her Vicky Bliss series, that mystery does not necessarily have to begin with a dead body. Thieves, stolen artifacts, forged talismans, and grainy photographs can lead an amateur sleuth down perilous paths with just as much fun and entertainment as a dead body.

Sadly, Mertz passed away in 2013 at the age of 85, having written over fifty fun-filled, and thrilling masterpieces of mystery, romance, and suspense. Though she lived not far from me, her passing came just as I was launching my own writing career, and I never got a chance to meet her—a great regret of mine. However, I have many tattered copies of her novels, and I will enjoy rereading them for years to come.

Female Authors Who Have Influenced Me – Women in History Month Series

Carolyn Keene and The Nancy Drew Mysteries

MARCH 5, 2021—As you may know, Carolyn Keene is a pseudonym for over a dozen authors who have written for the Nancy Drew mystery series. Edward Stratemeyer, a publisher, and writer of children’s books had the original idea for Nancy Drew. Too busy to write the series himself, he hired ghostwriter Mildred Wirt Benson, and gave the series the penname, Carolyn Keene.

Benson grew up in Iowa. She enjoyed adventure, playing sports with the neighborhood boys, and was an avid reader. As a child she would write short stories and submit them to children’s magazines. Her first story was published at age 13. After high school, Benson went on to earn an English degree in college, and she was the first woman to graduate with a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa. It was during her graduate program Stratemeyer hired Benson to write the first Nancy Drew mystery, The Secret of the Old Clock, published in 1930. Benson went on to write 23 more Nancy Drew mysteries for Stratemeyer.

Much like Benson, I was a tomboy. As a young child, my friend, Tommy, and I would tear up the neighborhood racing around on our Big Wheel bikes. I was also a dab hand at making mudpies with him in the garden. By the end of the day, I’d arrive home filthy and my poor mother would hose me off before allowing me to enter the house.

In addition, like Benson, I became an ardent reader, and Nancy Drew was the first series to hook me. I couldn’t get enough of Nancy’s adventures driving around River Heights in her snappy, blue roadster, with her best friends Bess and George solving crimes. I would challenge myself to figure out who the bad guy was before Nancy unfolded it for us at the end of the book. I own about twenty of the original, yellow-spined, hard back books, and borrowed many more from the library. Of the first 79 stories written, I would venture to guess, I have read 90% of them.

I, of course, wanted to grow up to become Nancy Drew, or any female crime fighting detective for that matter. The TV show, ‘Charlie’s Angels’ was also popular at the time. During sleepovers at my girlfriends’, we would run around the house chasing invisible bad guys and karate kicking them into submission. I always played Sabrina Duncan, one of the smart, tough talking, original Angels. Clearly, by the age of 10, I knew solving crimes was in my blood.

In case you’re wondering, no, I did not go into crime fighting. Again, like Benson, I was a young writer. My first books were the gripping page turners, Micki Mouse Goes to Mexico, and Banana Bonkers, written during elementary school in third and fifth grades, respectively.

However, in high school and college, my writing turned away from fiction. I focused on windy public administration journal articles, grant proposals, and heavy duty political white papers on things like constitutional law. While I continued reading mystery fiction, my serious-minded degrees took me away from story writing. It wasn’t until I quit my job to stay home with my new babies, that I allowed myself to explore fiction writing. My early love of Nancy Drew is surely one of the reasons I’ve gone down the path of crime fiction writing.

Suffolk Mystery Author Festival Gone Virtual

While we can’t get together in-person, this year the Suffolk Mystery Author Festival has gone virtual and FREE! Saturday, March 6, from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. there will be panel sessions running each hour. I will be on the Writing Strong Women panel from 6:00-7:00 p.m. Register to join:
https://www.suffolkmysteryauthorsfestival.com/2021-registration.html  

Pharaoh’s Forgery Excerpt & Trailer

Purchase links

Amazon   Barnes & Noble    iBooks    Kobo

Excerpt

“Karina, is that you?”
The connection was scratchy, but I thought I recognized the voice. “Mrs. Thundermuffin?”
“Yes, dearie, it’s me. I’m so glad I caught you.”
“Where are you?”
“In Mexico. Didn’t—” Her voice faded out.
“What? I can’t hear you.” I checked to make sure the volume on my phone was up all the way. “Hello?”
“I said . . . Mexico.”
“What?”
The connection cleared as she spoke again. “I’m in Mexico. Didn’t I tell you that’s where I’d be?”
“Yes, you did. I’m surprised you’re calling. Is something the matter?”
“I’m not sure. Did you get that package yet?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, it came in yesterday.” I winced. “Only, I hate to tell you, I’m afraid it’s been damaged.”
“What? Did you say the item was damaged?”
“Well, I’m not sure about what’s inside, but the outer box was partially crushed, and there is a tear. Also, when I picked it up, there was a rattling sound.”
“Oh, boy.” She seemed to turn away from the phone to speak to someone else. Faintly, I heard, “She says the package is damaged. I don’t know, I’ll ask.” Her voice came back on the line at full strength. “Karina, would you do me a favor and check it out for me?”
“You want me to open the box?”
“Yes, and tell me what the contents look like.”
“Okay.” I retrieved the box from the front hall and brought it to the kitchen. “Let me put you on speaker.” Placing the phone on the counter, I sliced into the end that was not crushed.
“Okay, there’s a good bit of packing material.” I pulled out a bunch of the brown shredded paper. “We have a manila envelope, about four-by-eight, and scrawled across the center—’To Aunt Milly for your stamp collection.’ I didn’t know you were a stamp collector.” I put the unsealed envelope aside.
“I collect all sorts of things.”
Half a dozen loose coins fell out, clanking their way across the counter. “And there are some coins in here. Maybe that’s what was making the noise. They say centavos on one side, and the other—oh, I see, they’re from Brazil.” Someone spoke in a foreign language in the background, really more like bellowed in short, demanding sentences. I couldn’t catch what he was saying, but the tone didn’t sound nice. “Are you okay, Mrs. Thundermuffin?”
“Just fine, dear. My grandnephew sends me coins from the places he’s visited. Now about the case inside the box, has it been damaged?”
I gave the box a shake, and a hard, black plastic case, about twelve-by-ten inches, slid into my hand. “The case looks undamaged, and it feels fairly sturdy. Should I open it?”
“No, I don’t think that’s necessary. As long as the case is undamaged, I’m sure it’s fine.”
“Okay. Then it’ll be here when you get back.” I laid it down.
“Actually, dear, I was hoping you could do me the favor of bringing it with you when you come to Mexico.”
“Um, I suppose I can do that. But I’m headed to Cancun, I don’t think that’s very close to Mexico City at all.”
“I’m no longer in Mexico City. I’m on my way to Mérida. It’s on the Yucatan Peninsula, not far from Cancun. I can arrange to get it after you arrive,” she explained.
“Well, I suppose that would work.” Someone shouted in the background and the line went dead. “Mrs. Thundermuffin? Hello?”

New Release – Blog Tour

Pharoah’s Forgery Now Available

Amazon   Barnes & Noble    iBooks    Kobo

The latest installment in the bestselling Karina Cardinal mystery series is now available in print and ebook.

Margaritas, mayhem, and—if she’s not careful—murder.

Cancun was supposed to be a relaxing getaway. Instead, thanks to Mrs.

 

Thundermuffin and an Egyptian death mask, Karina and fellow lobbyist Rodrigo are besieged by crooks, conmen, kidnappers, and killers. When things really erupt into chaos, they could be going home in the tackiest of souvenirs—a body bag.

Visit some of the tour stops to learn more about Karina Cardinal, her favorite mojito recipe and learn a bit about the research done for the novel.

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

September 21 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

September 21 – Baroness’ Book Trove – SPOTLIGHT

September 22 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

September 22 – The Book Decoder – REVIEW

September 23 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW  

September 23 – Dee-Scoveries – SPOTLIGHT

September 23 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

September 24 – Mysteries with Character – REVIEW

September 24 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

September 25 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT, RECIPE

September 25 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

September 26 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

September 26 – Ruff Drafts – GUEST POST

September 27 – Readeropolis – SPOTLIGHT

September 27 – Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

 

Quarantine Days & Giveaways

Hello Readers! 
I have a variety of Giveaway links that are available to anyone with an eReader, tablet, smartphone, or computer. Get your eReader out and start loading!

FREE First in Series – ONLY 2 DAYS LEFT! 
If you are looking to start a new series during quarantine, check out this promotion of over 40 authors writing in the mystery/thriller/suspense genre are giving out their first book. But get your eReader downloads quick, the deal ends this weekend!
https://books.bookfunnel.com/firstinseriesfreeforyou/60oriiyr0o

Historical Fiction with Strong Female Leads 
For those who love historical fiction, this promo is for you! Over 30 authors have joined this giveaway promotion. You can download to your eReader full novels and chapter excerpts from a variety of historical fiction subgenres, including thriller, spy, romance, and mystery.  To get started visit this link:
https://books.bookfunnel.com/strongfemaleleadshistoricalfiction/2l217rti1f

Mystery Lovers Giveaway 
May is Mystery Month, and there are 50+ authors giving away their mysteries to readers like you! Mysteries genres include: cozies, thrillers, psychological, romantic suspense, crime, police procedural, and action/adventure. If you like mystery, you’re sure to find something to love in this pile.
https://books.bookfunnel.com/maymysteries/jsvxj3cs2o

Diamond Theft at a Local Level Featured in Ellen Butler’s Newest Novel

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – Celebrated Northern Virginia author Ellen Butler is about to release her newest novel, Diamonds & Deception, the third in her international bestselling Karina Cardinal mystery series. In this novel, Karina Cardinal and her sister Jillian dig into a diamond theft, but they unearth trouble—a tangle of Russian mob ties and gambling debts. Karina realizes they’ve dug too deep, and maybe a little too far outside the law.

Like Butler’s first two Karina Cardinal mysteries, the setting of the book is local, starting with a mystery criminal absconding with diamonds from a Tysons Corner jewelry store. The fast-paced plot winds its way into organized crime, gang violence and human trafficking in Washington DC and northern Virginia suburbs, with the climax erupting in Arlington.

Having ties to Capitol Hill helped Butler create this installment of the series. “My contacts at the FBI and DC police force helped round out the gang and organized crime storyline,” she said. “It has been an interesting journey, and I think the novel’s themes, which touch on current events, will resonate with readers.”

The book holds a particular appeal to residents of, and those familiar with, the Washington, DC and northern Virginia regions. “Many of my advanced editorial reviewers appreciated the local flavor of the book,” Butler said. “It’s not hard to imagine this plot taking place here inside the beltway, which makes it even more intriguing to anyone who has ever lived here or visited this area.”

A former public policy writer, Butler is also the author of the award-winning Love, California Style series and bestselling historical suspense, The Brass Compass. She is a member of the Office of Strategic Services Society, Sisters in Crime, Virginia Writer’s Club, Write by the Rails and International Thriller Writers.

Diamonds & Deception is available for preorder through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo, and will be released officially October 7, 2019.

Butler will appear for signings, discussions and giveaways October 12, 2019 at Eat Local, Read Local at Cascades Library in Potomac Falls, Va.

On October 26, she, along with a variety of USA Today bestselling and award winning authors from the DMV area will be at the Royal Book Bash at the Hilton Garden Inn in Woodbridge, Va.

November 10, Butler will be interviewed by award winning author of the Washington Whodunit series, Colleen Shogan at The Wine Attic in Clifton, Va, where there will be wine tastings, giveaways and food.

December 4, she will take part in the Thirtieth Annual University Club Meet the Author Night and Book Fair in Washington, DC.