Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
It is my pleasure to welcome Michelle Hillen Klump
to Escape With Dollycas today!
Murder Served Neat (A Cocktails and Catering Mystery)
by Michelle Hillen Klump
Writing What You Don’t Know
by Michelle Hillen Klump
The first rule they teach in almost any fiction writing class is to “write what you know.” It’s good advice that provides some ammunition against that incessantly blinking curser on the infernal blank page. But after a while, once you’ve strip-mined your own back story and killed off (on the page of course) that past boss who made work miserable, you’ve got to search for inspiration from somewhere else. That’s when you reach what I consider the most fun part of the writing journey – writing what you don’t know.
In my Cocktails and Catering Mystery series, I borrowed plenty of details from my own life for my main character, Samantha Warren. Much like me, she’s also a former newspaper reporter with a fondness for beaches, long bike rides, and historic neighborhoods. But when I think of myself at her age, at least in terms of talents and skills, we couldn’t be more different.
In her mid-twenties, Samantha is an accomplished mixologist with a genius at combining different flavors and ingredients to create tasty cocktails that are greater than the sum of their parts. At that age, when I found myself at a bar, the most exotic drink I could come up with was usually a rum and diet Coke with lime. (I’m not knocking it… it’s still a pretty tasty drink, and does sound more impressive if you call it a Cuba Libre, but it’s definitely not breaking a lot of new ground.)
My first real introduction to creative cocktails came in my first year of marriage. My husband and I rented a little house within walking distance of a brand-new bar called Anvil in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood. When we popped into the bar to find out what all of the fuss was about, we were confronted with a list of 100 classic cocktails along with a handful of drinks that were newly created using interesting ingredients such as habanero tincture, pineapple gomme and crème de violette by the bartenders themselves. Suddenly, I wanted to try every one of them, and learn everything there was to know about the craft of creating cocktails.
Slowly, over the years, we’ve amassed a fairly impressive bar, and have a nice repertoire of cocktails we can make for our guests. But as much as I wish I was at Samantha’s level, I’m nowhere near it. My efforts at making homemade bitters have failed miserably. I haven’t yet been able to make a passable ginger beer. And the idea of trying to figure out all of the different infusion and distillation processes to make even more inventive ingredients usually leaves my head spinning. But I love to research it all and to pass all of what I have learned on to Samantha as if the knowledge is all second nature to her.
While I may never reach Samantha’s proficiency in crafting the perfect cocktail for the perfect occasion, I can celebrate the fact that I’ve figured out how to take what I don’t know and use it to craft a more interesting book.
Thank you Michelle for visiting today!
Keep reading for more info about Michelle, her new book, and my review!
About Murder Served Neat
Murder Served Neat (A Cocktails and Catering Mystery)
2nd in Series
Setting – Texas
Crooked Lane Books (February 21, 2023)
Hardcover : 320 pages
ISBN-10 : 1639102345
ISBN-13 : 978-1639102341
Digital ASIN : B09ZRLRFB4
Reporter-turned-mixologist Samantha Warren has already thwarted one murder. Now, her world is shaken—definitely not stirred—once again as another killing throws her world into chaos.
Samantha is mixing up traditional cocktails at the German Texan Lodge’s Fourth of July festival—a gig she was roped into by her mother. But amidst the bratwurst and brass bands, trouble is brewing. Lodge loyalties are divided over a proposal to build a private, country-club-style tennis center on the lodge grounds. Her mom’s best friend Patty Davis is vehemently opposed to the plan. Society matron Angela Clawson is all for it. At the festival, they’re seen in a heated argument—and hours later, Angela is found dead, killed by one of the ceremonial shovels intended for the groundbreaking.
Samantha’s mother begs her to help clear her best friend’s name, but can she handle another murder case or will the whole investigation go bottoms up?
Independence Day in Texas like everything else is BIG! Samantha is spending her holiday at the German Texan Lodge’s Fourth of July festival mixing up her signature drinks for the masses. It is clearly evident that there are two factions at the event. Those that are for the new private club and tennis courts being built on the property owned by the lodge and those against the project, happy with things just the way they are. Samantha’s mom’s BFF Patty is definitely one of the latter and has no problem voicing her opinion even right to the woman in charge of the project’s face, in full view of a crowd. Things even got physical and they had to be separated. So when the high society tennis racket-wielding matron, Angela Clawson is found dead at the construction site it isn’t long before Patty Davis is driven away in a police cruiser.
Samantha already pored over the clues to solve another murder and never wanted to repeat the process, but when her mother begs her to help Patty, she just can’t say no. Hopefully, she can wrap this one up quickly and get back to her and Beth’s cocktails and catering business with another killer behind bars.
Mixologist Samanta Warren is an appealing protagonist. A former newshound she knows how to get the answers she needs, most of the time. Sometimes it takes a little more work but she doesn’t give up. Her friends Marisa and Beth understand but Beth is worried about how Samantha’s sleuthing will affect their new business. Marissa on the other hand is more willing to help Samantha investigate any time she can.
In Murder Served Neat, Samantha’s mom, Lillian is in town for a visit which is good because her friend Patty needs her now more than ever. Patty’s son Martin has also come to town to help. He and Samantha have known each other for years but they had a falling out in college and she is not ready to forgive him. I enjoyed the close relationship Samantha has with her mother and by extension to her mother’s friend Patty. It made sense for Samantha to start her own investigation. The testy relationship with Martin added a little drama and I enjoyed that too. Samantha asked David if they could take their relationship slow and I was happy to see it moving a little bit faster by the end of the story.
The victim was a force, pushy, and entitled so she had made more than a few enemies, some within her own family so it was fun to tag along with Samantha as she kept her eyes and ears open and used her journalist skills to get to the truth. I did put the clues together quicker than Samantha and wanted to jump in the book to stop her but boy that was an exciting ending.
The author’s descriptive writing style takes her readers on the entire journey with her characters. I felt like I was right at the festival and could almost taste Samantha’s Sparkler Cocktail and was even craving a funnel cake. I could envision the locations of the lodge, the festival, the original construction site, and the proposed changes. All the places Beth and Samantha catered were also easy to imagine. I really enjoyed having a bird’s eye view as Beth created the foods to serve and how Samantha comes up with her drink ideas and the work entailed to make her bitters. Six recipes are included at the end of the book including the recipes for Samantha’s Sparkler Cocktail and a Blackberry Shrub needed to make Angel’s Blackberry Blush.
Michelle Hillen Klump has served up a delightful mystery in Murder Served Neat. Engaging characters and a well-plotted mystery kept me happily entertained from the first page to the last. I am looking forward to visiting these characters again soon.
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About Michelle Hillen Klump
Michelle Hillen Klump began her writing career as a newspaper reporter, traveling the back roads of central Texas and Arkansas, reporting on everything from natural disasters to crime and corruption. She’s interviewed former presidents, covered a midnight manhunt through the Ozark Mountains, and learned the finer points of how to break a car window from a looter while covering a hurricane. Now, she uses her experiences as fodder for fiction, writing a cozy mystery series about a former reporter turned craft cocktail caterer.
Michelle lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and young daughter. When she’s not writing or working her day job, she enjoys gardening, reading, exploring Houston’s neighborhoods, hiking and biking, and creating craft cocktails for friends and family.
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February 20 – Angel’s Guilty Pleasures – SPOTLIGHT
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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.”