Larceny at the Library

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Colleen J. Shogan and her cozy mystery novel, Larceny at the Library.

Author’s description

Congressional chief of staff Kit Marshall is finally figuring out what it takes to work for a newly minted committee chair in the House of Representatives. After a swanky evening soiree at the Library of Congress, Kit’s husband Doug discovers the body of a high-ranking librarian inside a ceremonial office. In addition to a murder, there’s also a major theft to complicate the situation. The contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets the night he was assassinated have gone missing. Kit’s political boss and the Librarian of Congress ask Kit to investigate, and she’s released into a world of intrigue populated by a frisky donor, an ambitious congressional relations specialist, a cagey rare books curator, an overly curious congressman, and a baseball-loving lawyer. Kit must solve the crime before Doug’s career is tanked by suspicion.

The case takes her to the inner bowels of the Library of Congress, Ford’s Theatre, the National Portrait Gallery, and the D.C. Public Library. In the end, Kit must put her own life on the line to retrieve her most valuable possession, which goes unexpectedly missing as she hunts down the killer and thief.

My Review

In Larceny at the Library Colleen J. Shogan has written an enjoyable cozy mystery enhanced with an insider’s knowledge of DC politics and a wealth of fun information about the Library of Congress and the world of historical artifacts.

Her amateur sleuth, Congressional chief of staff Kit Marshall, is diligent and methodical, and she delivers an admirable solution to the crime, just in time. I liked Shogan’s supporting characters and felt she introduced enough about each to make them three dimensional without getting bogged down in extraneous plots. On the whole, the story works well on an intellectual level.

I wish I’d read the previous novels, as I’m guessing author Shogan covered basics I missed. I needed to know more about Kit Marshall in order to really like her. I kept wondering what she was doing solving murders. Worse yet, when characters from previous stories showed up, I found their cameo appearances frustrating. I have a feeling this particular book works better on an emotional level if the reader is already invested in the main character and is happy to see people from her past.

Every book stumbles a bit somewhere: for this novel I’d say it could use a little more zing. I don’t want car chases and ticking bombs in my cozy mysteries, but less mundane food descriptions, fewer extraneous references to pop culture, and a lot less dialog that boils down to people introducing themselves to each other would have allowed this basically good story to pack more punch.

As it is, it’s a fun read and I’d like to read more by this author. I do recommend this book to all cozy mystery fans, and particularly to those who are also history buffs or are fascinated by watching the DC scene.

About the Author

Colleen J. Shogan has been reading mysteries since the age of six. A political scientist by training, Colleen has taught American politics at several universities and previously worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate and as a senior executive at the Library of Congress. She is currently the Senior Vice President of the White House Historical Association.

Colleen is a member of Sisters in Crime. “Stabbing in the Senate” was awarded the Next Generation Indie prize for Best Mystery in 2016. “Homicide in the House” was a 2017 finalist for the RONE Award for Best Mystery. “Calamity at the Continental Club” was a 2018 finalist in the “best cozy mystery” at Killer Nashville. She lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Rob and their beagle mutt Conan.

Find the Author at

https://www.facebook.com/washingtonwhodunit/
https://twitter.com/cshogan276
www.colleenshogan.com
www.goodreads.com/cshogan276

Buy the Book at

Amazon  or BN.

Yes, there is a giveaway

The Author will be awarding a $75 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

GF

My Favorite Excerpt

Dunlap motioned for me to follow inside her private office. With a spectacular view of the historic Jefferson Building and the United States Capitol accompanied by floor to ceiling windows, the Librarian’s corner suite constituted prime real estate on Capitol Hill.  Her desk was littered with papers and books. I appreciated a disheveled work space and instantly felt at ease with the homey appearance of her personal space.

“Please sit down, Ms. Marshall,” she said, pointing to a leather armchair. She took a seat directly opposite me, straining to offer a smile.

“I’ll touch base with Sergeant O’Halloran later this afternoon,” I said. “I’ve already done a preliminary survey of the immediate suspects so we can talk freely about where the investigation stands.”

“Impressive,” said the Librarian, her hands folded neatly on her lap. “How did you come up with such a list?”

I explained that a limited number of people knew that only her fingerprints and Gustav Gaffney’s could open the safe. Given Doug’s observations, if we assumed that Gaffney was killed last night instead of this morning, then only those already inside the building would have had access to the Librarian’s ceremonial office. That narrowed the list of possible suspects considerably.

“Then who are we talking about specifically, Ms. Marshall? asked Dunlap. “After all, I’m in charge of the Library of Congress, and I need to know who might be responsible for these heinous crimes.”

“Of course, ma’am.” I ticked off the known suspects with my fingers. “There’s Gordon Endicott, Joe Malden, Lea Rutherford, Janice Jackson, and Congressman Henry Chang.”  After taking a breath, I continued. “The police likely consider my husband Doug Hollingsworth a suspect, too. But I don’t.” I chuckled. “For obvious reasons.”

“Thank you for those names, Ms. Marshall,” said the Librarian, now with a pinched expression on her face. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to go back to the drawing board.”

My head flinched backwards. “Excuse me, ma’am?”

“Many of those individuals are my employees here at the Library of Congress,” she said. “None of them could have killed Gustav Gaffney or committed theft.”

“It’s hard to imagine a colleague you know and trusted could have done this. But I’ve seen this unfortunate scenario time and time again. You’d be surprised what motivates people to do horrible things.”

The Descendant

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Melissa Riddell and her science fiction/romance novel, The Descendant.

Author’s description

She wants her world back; he wants her heart.

Tilly Morgan and her four-legged companion, Kodiak, are just trying to survive the alien arrival. Two years ago, the visitors unleashed devastation—a world-wide EMP followed by a deadly virus that wiped out more than half of humanity.

Traversing the lonely landscape, she runs into an alien on patrol with one order: eradicate all human life. A mysterious, dark-haired stranger named Jareth comes to her aid, and she reluctantly allows him to join her quest to find her sister. He even persuades her to let the damaged alien tag along against her better judgment.

As her group travels the desolate world and inches closer to her goal, she’s forced to examine her unwanted feelings for Jareth and come to terms with her heart, even if the truth threatens to destroy her and everything she’s come to believe.

Guest Post: Predicting Pandemics

It’s hard for a science fiction writer not to be taken aback by the unexpected events of 2020. Given that, I asked author Melissa Riddell to share her thoughts on the difficulties of writing science fiction that occurs in the near future.

Here is her fascinating response!

When I wrote The Descendant last year, I had no idea we were going to have our own viral outbreak in the real world. Even though my book’s apocalypse starts with an electromagnetic pulse wiping out all electronics and electricity, it also throws in a deadly virus killing most of humanity. With The Descendant, though, Tilly and Jareth’s romance and character development is at the heart of the story, so the virus takes a backseat to the true narrative.

There have been many apocalyptic books written where a virus is the driver to end times, such as Stephen King’s The Stand, and most readers (me included) gobble them up because we feel safe. We enjoy imagining what it would be like to survive the chaos—from the comfort of our favorite reading chair with our favorite beverage at our side.

The only true danger after reading these apocalyptic novels was developing a sniffle during the reading. We might’ve rushed to the clinic and explained what Mr. King called this type of sickness. “Oh, sweet Jesus, I think I’ve got Captain Trips.”

Calmly, the doctor informed me—uh, I mean those readers—they were suffering from allergic rhinitis, nothing more. He might’ve shaken his head and walked away, probably adding the patient to his psychosomatic list. And he was right—a little loratadine or cetirizine cleared Captain Trips right up. I digress, though.

Enter 2020 and COVID-19. Now that the world has had a tiny taste of living through a real pandemic, some readers want no reminders of what’s going on. Their whole purpose of reading a book is to escape reality. This poses problems for this type of near-future sci-fi and kills the “joy” factor.

On the flip side of that coin, the other crowd loves it, because they can relate to the book’s characters in a much more intimate way. Heck, they might even read it again to ensure they didn’t miss any tips on how to survive the virus.

Any writer trying to “cash in” on the current pandemic is probably going to find their book in one of these two crowds—those who love it  because of what we’re living through, and those who detest it due to the current situation. My advice? Write your story. Even if it’s not popular right now, every genre experiences fluctuations in popularity, so who knows? Maybe a few years down the road, when we hopefully have COVID-19 under control in our past, those who passed over the book might be willing to give it a try.

In general, without the viral threat we’re facing, I think the difficulty in writing near-future sci-fi technology is in the technicality of the world or gadgets. If the story’s setting or tech is based on proposed developments, say in 10-30 years, then it’s imperative the writer does his or her research. Why? Because the technology isn’t that far away, and the author must prove to the reader they know what they’re writing about. Imagine getting it all wrong, and in a few years, the book is outdated and unbelievable. That’s not a good thing for the writer—or the reader.

In my opinion, it’s much easier to write science fiction for the far-off future or an advanced race, because I can make up stuff that can’t be disproven so easily. As long as I stick to fundamental laws of physics and biology (as we know it), then I can create the “fiction” part of science fiction and hopefully, the reader will happily come along for the ride.

About the Author

Melissa Riddell is from a small, West Texas town in which she still lives with her husband. Her writing career started as a hobby when she was a teenager, writing poems and short stories. Eventually, she branched out and began constructing novels. When not contemplating new story ideas, she can be found traipsing around Texas State Parks, herding her cats, or reading a book.

You can follow her on several different social media platforms below.
Facebook: facebook.com/melcriddell
Twitter: twitter.com/MelCRiddell
Instagram: instagram.com/averela
Goodreads: goodreads.com/melcriddell

Or visit her on her website.

Buy The Descendent on Amazon

The book will be $0.99 during the tour.

Yes, there is a giveaway

Melissa Riddell will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN gift card, a signed copy of The Descendant (book 1), or an ARC of the second book in the series to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

Walking down a long, metallic corridor, the hall opens, and I see people sitting at terminals or standing on discs.

Visual readouts project holographic images at the stations. Some of the crew wear visors over their eyes and move gloved hands to swipe at virtual images of the triangular ship and the solar system. When Eva passes their stations, several follow the procession with guarded faces.

The back of a chair rests in the middle of the spacious room. Before the seat is an enormous window that looks out into space.

One soft, polished boot dangles over the side of the chair. Long, deft fingers drum a beat on the black coat that covers the knee.

Freaking, evil granny. I should’ve known she wouldn’t keep her nose out of my business.

In slow motion, the chair swivels in my direction.

I want to crawl and hide. Instead, I stand and stare like the idiot I am.

All the World’s Colors: The Queen of the Blue

Review: All the World’s Colors: The Queen of the Blue

James W. George has created a fascinating and complex world sure to delight those who love his style of fantasy. I appreciated his deftness with words and his ability to evoke an emotional response with his characters. Descriptions are succinct yet effective, and the plot scampers along at a good pace.

I enjoy novels with multiple points of view and commend this author for effectively interweaving at least five distinct stories while introducing two would-be heroes to the reader. There is no question James W. George is good at his craft.

Alas, he doesn’t happen to write the sort of fantasy I prefer. For all that I love reading about make-believe worlds and alternate histories, I tire of violence and I lose interest when too many characters treat too many people too horribly too often.

Most of this first book alternates between the toxic masculinity of a perpetually warring race (think Klingons with sex slaves) and the alternative of a matriarchy of disdainful women who abuse their men physically and emotionally. My interest was finally piqued when he introduced the green religious zealots and the orange greedy merchants, as neither of them appeared to regularly beat up their own people. Sadly, it was too far into the novel for either to play much of a role.

I did enjoy the interesting twist he has put into the story of the blue matriarchs, but this is clearly only the first book of the series and nothing is resolved. One would have to read on to find out where his interesting idea leads.

I recommend this book to all those who like their fantasy darker and more violent than I do. I’m sure that’s a sizable group, and if you fall into this camp, I encourage you to check out this well-written series.

For more about this book, and the review tour this review was part of, see All the World’s Colors: The Queen of the Blue.