Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
I am excited to welcome Christine to Escape With Dollycas today!!
How A Tomato Turned Into a Murder Mystery
By Christine E. Blum
A little over a year ago I made the trek up the hill to Ocean View Farms with some fellow Rose Avenue Wine Club members to attend something called a “Tomato-bration”. Atop the hill and in the midst of 500 community garden plots was a gathering place where you could purchase starter tomato plants of seemingly infinite varieties. This may not seem unusual to many of you until I tell you that this was in the middle of West Los Angeles, an oasis surrounded by Whole Foods stores, gas stations and the not too distant motor sounds coming from the 405 Freeway. I was just finishing my first book, “Full Bodied Murder” and so instead of thinking about the fresh salsa and tomato sauce that I’d have all summer; I was thinking that this would be a perfect spot for a murder…
Time for a little history. In my books I treat Los Angeles as a living, breathing character and love to share the wonders of this city with my readers. I’m not talking about star sightings, lavish mansions and automobiles or an encounter with a Kardashian, I want you to see what I see, a magical place steeped in heritage and hard work. And the occasional murder.
When I returned home I immediately hopped online to do some research. That led me in a dozen directions with as many stories.
“California Rancheros”, men of Spanish and Mexican descent who mostly raised cattle, originally occupied the area. About the time that the Mexican War was ending, Yankee immigrants were making their way across the country attracted by the discovery of gold here.
Anderson Rose, for whom Rose Avenue is named, was one of said Yankee pioneers. Shortly after he arrived he began acquiring land. Some say over the years thousands of acres. He did initially mine, but with poor results so he stuck to ranching.
The discovery of oil in Los Angeles at the turn of the century and the fight for ownership was the stuff of legends. And amazingly there are still some oil derricks just blocks away from Rose Avenue. Every so often when new construction starts on old ground rumors fly about the possibility of striking oil.
The hill later became a bustling farmland producing lima beans and celery. People living in the area hunted with rifles and bows and arrows, raised poultry and rode horses up until as late as the 60’s.
A Murderous History
When I stumbled on the following story I knew that I had the perfect backdrop for my next book, “Murder Most Fermented”.
On the morning of February 10, 1947, on top of the Ocean View Farms hill, a tractor driver who was grading the fallow field spied something lying in the weeds. A closer inspection revealed a ghastly sight: the nude, badly battered body of a dead woman, Mar Vista resident Jeanne French.
Jeanne, a nurse and bit player in the movies, had been stomped to death and her body desecrated with an obscenity written with her lipstick.
Jeanne’s brutal slaying was committed less than a month after the more famous “Black Dahlia” murder, and police investigators at the time believed the same fiend killed both women. Some modern researchers concur; both crimes remain officially unsolved.
That got me thinking and I knew that I needed to pull all of this history together and weave it into a story for the ladies of the Rose Avenue Wine Club.
Now all that was left to do was to grab Bardot and head out to create and solve a murder…
Thank you, Christine, for visiting today!
2nd in Series
Setting – California
Kensington (April 24, 2018)
Mass Market Paperback: 256 pages
Kindle ASIN: B074DGXVPC
Murder and merlot! The ladies of the Rose Avenue Wine Club are back to track down another killer . . .
When New York transplant Annie “Halsey” Hall starts digging for her tiny SoCal dream vineyard off Rose Avenue, the last thing she expects to unearth is an elderly woman. Between decanting chardonnays and rosés, Halsey and the women of the Wine Club pour over the list of suspects. Could the old woman have bottlenecked her great grandson’s latest scheme? Was it a case of super sour grapes with the local historical society? Or did a devious developer close a killer deal?
With the help of the Wine Club and her enthusiastic yellow lab, Bardot, Halsey must untangle the twisted tendrils of the mystery to clear her name and end a murderer’s reign of terroir . . .
We are back on Rose Avenue with Halsey and Bardot. Halsey has been gifted a spot in the community garden and hopes to plant some grapes for her own mini vineyard. But as Bardot starts “helping” her turn over the soil he makes a shocking discovery. A body has been buried in her garden and it turns the neighborhood upside down. Halsey doesn’t waste any time getting involved in the investigation and the members of the Rose Avenue Wine Club are tipping their glasses and putting themselves in danger to help.
These ladies take their wine very seriously and when trying to catch a killer they meet more often and that means more wine for everyone. Every time one of them opened another bottle I chuckled just a bit. They do uncover clues and do get themselves in some dicey situations. Halsey even takes on the police after being arrested for trespassing. She wants answers and she wants them now.
I do like Halsey, she is not afraid to get her hands dirty to solve a crime, and she is not timid in her dealings with anyone. Her relationship with dog whisperer/trainer Jack is progressing but he hates that she is putting herself in danger. Bardot is quite a dog. He is a quick learner and just the type of dog Halsey needs especially when the chips are down.
Ms. Blum gives great descriptions of everything, the place, the people, the food and the WINE!
The characters are quirky, some more than others. Some strong friendships are made while a certain neighbor is mostly just tolerated for good reason. They are genuine and the dialogues between them ring true. And like I said, they love their wine.
The mystery was a tangled web but I had my killer chosen before Halsey and the ladies. It was a lot of fun reading on to be sure I was right. After all the years I have been reading cozies I still get excited when I catch on before the protagonist.
Wine lovers or book clubs that serve wine, this is a book for you, but all cozy lovers will enjoy and like me find it very entertaining. I like learning about the different wines too. If the book only came with free samples 🙂
I am excited about the continuation of this series. I can’t wait to visit these characters again. The Name of the Rosé will be released November 27.
About the Author
Thanks to the publisher I have 1 copy to give away!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”