Guest Blogger: Denise Swanson

DeadBetweenTheLinesRAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU BELONG TO A BOOK CLUB

Book clubs have been around for a long time, but in the past few years, they seem to be popping up everywhere. It seems to me that books clubs became more visible and appeared cooler when Oprah started her club. Ms. Winfrey’s stated purpose was to get more people reading, or if you already were a reader, she hoped you would become more ardent about books. The novels she selected were often challenging, and I admit, I didn’t enjoy a lot of them. But she dared her club’s members to read between the lines, which I was more than willing to do.

As a writer, I’m often asked to speak to various book discussion groups. So when one such group, the Stepping Out Book Club, suggested that my next book should center around a book club meeting, I thought, yes, yes it should.

My sleuth, Devereaux Sinclair, owns Devereaux’s Dime Store, an old-fashioned variety store that she has opened up to various community groups. In Dead Between the Lines, my March book, the Shadow Bend version of the Stepping Out Book Club hold their monthly meeting in Dev’s store and someone doesn’t make it home alive.

When I decided to write about murder in a book club, I researched the popularity of these groups to try to figure out why so many people were forming and/or joining book clubs. Was it to share ideas or for the social interaction or was it just an excuse to drink wine and eat chocolate? As a reader, I knew that this type of group was every bookworm’s dream party. Or was it?

Theoretically, a book club would be a place where you could openly express your views of the book, what you liked or disliked about it, and delve into the book’s true meaning. As a psychologist, I was fascinated with the possibilities. What would happen if the group passionately disagreed? Book clubs often consist of many different kinds of individuals and they discuss some topics that could become extremely inflammatory. There frequently is an assortment of ages, social backgrounds, and educational levels. This kind of situation is fertile ground for heated debates and hurt feelings.

As I mulled over the idea that members could become fevered over a disagreement, it dawned on me that a guest author could stir up the situation even more. Especially an arrogant, supercilious jerk. Perhaps a writer who felt he was smarter or more sophisticate, or just plain superior to the book club members—not that I’ve met any authors like that. Still, once the idea started bouncing around in my imagination, I couldn’t get rid of it until I wrote the story.

Are you a member of a book club? Have you ever attended a meeting with a speaker who was so obnoxious you wondered if he or she would make it out of the gathering alive?

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DeadBetweenTheLines
Series: A Devereaux’s Dime Store Mystery, #3
Publisher: Obsidian
Released: March 4, 2014

Opening an old-fashioned five-and-dime shop in her small Missouri hometown has been a great change for Devereaux “Dev” Sinclair. But when she hosts a reading group there, she learns that bad writing can mean life or death.

To keep her new business in the black, Dev opens up her shop to local clubs. But in the first meeting of the Stepping Out Book Club, the speaker storms out after members attack his poetry’s sexism and scorn for small towns. Later that night, the poet’s body is found outside Dev’s store.

Dev can’t afford for the murder to close her down, so she does a little stepping out of her own to investigate, with help from her two sexy suitors, Dr. Noah Underwood and Deputy U.S. Marshal Jake Del Vecchio. But when the killer threatens Dev, they will have to use every trick in the book to solve the case before she becomes the final chapter in this murder mystery….

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Book Review: DEAD BETWEEN THE LINES by Denise Swanson

DeadBetweenTheLines
Series: A Devereaux’s Dime Store Mystery, #3
Publisher: Signet
Released: March 4, 2014
Source: Review copy from the publisher

Opening an old-fashioned five-and-dime shop in her small Missouri hometown has been a great change for Devereaux “Dev” Sinclair. But when she hosts a reading group there, she learns that bad writing can mean life or death.

To keep her new business in the black, Dev opens up her shop to local clubs. But in the first meeting of the Stepping Out Book Club, the speaker storms out after members attack his poetry’s sexism and scorn for small towns. Later that night, the poet’s body is found outside Dev’s store.

Dev can’t afford for the murder to close her down, so she does a little stepping out of her own to investigate, with help from her two sexy suitors, Dr. Noah Underwood and Deputy U.S. Marshal Jake Del Vecchio. But when the killer threatens Dev, they will have to use every trick in the book to solve the case before she becomes the final chapter in this murder mystery.…

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A small town book club meeting gone awry, dark secrets meant to stay buried, and murder! DEAD BETWEEN THE LINES is a juicy cozy mystery that had me hooked from the beginning.

Dev Sinclair runs Shadow Bend’s dime store, and to help make ends meet, she rents out space for local club events. On the evening the Stepping Out Book Club held its meeting, things go terribly wrong. The guest speaker, a local poet, turns out to be a misogynistic jerk who manages to offend everyone. He storms out in a huff and is later found dead in Dev’s trash behind her store. Mr. Unpleasant was harboring some big secrets, ones that made him even more unlikable, if that’s possible.

With an ear to the gossip grapevine of Shadow Bend and an eye on possible suspects, clever Dev becomes an invaluable resource to the police’s murder investigation. I like Dev. She’s a down to earth gal who takes a sensible approach to amateur sleuthing. She also gets some help from the two men in her life – U.S. Marshal Jake and Dr. Noah. Both guys have a thing for Dev, and she kind of has a thing for both of them, which complicates things.

DEAD BETWEEN THE LINES was an enjoyable read. It was a fast-paced and exciting mystery, and I was rather surprised to learn who the killer was. This is the third book in the series, though it could be read stand alone. Recommended to fans of cozy mysteries who like a healthy dose of romance mixed in.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HOMICIDE by Denise Swanson

11754236
Series: A Devereaux Dime Store Mystery, #1
Publisher: Signet
Released: March 6, 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher

Dev Sinclair is the happy new owner of the old-fashioned shop in her small Missouri town. But if she doesn’t focus on finding the killer of her ex’s fiancée, this five-and-dime owner may find herself serving twenty-five to life…

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Devereaux Sinclair owns Devereaux’s Dime Store and Gift Baskets, located in the small Missouri town of Shadow Bend. Dev left a job with a financial investment firm to move back to her hometown to take care of her grandmother. Unfortunately for Dev, the items from one of her gift basket creations were used to kill the fiancee of her ex-boyfriend, and now she has a cantankerous detective breathing down her neck. To make matters worse, he’s got a personal vendetta against her, so putting her away for murder is his only goal. Dev is afraid the police aren’t looking for other suspects, so she enlists the help of her two best friends and her neighbor’s sexy nephew, Jake, to hunt down the real killer. Jake also happens to be a US Marshall, so his connections will come in handy, and the fact that he’s a hottie doesn’t hurt either.

LITTLE SHOP OF HOMICIDE is a delightful start to Denise Swanson’s new series. My first thought after finishing this book was that romance fans (like me) will enjoy it. A significant part of the story was the budding relationship between Dev and Jake and their lustful attraction to each other. That may not work for some fans of cozy mysteries, but I loved it. I felt like Dev’s quest to uncover the real killer stayed the focus of the plot, so a heavier romantic element did not take away from the mystery. This was not an easy one to figure out – there were nice twists and turns along the way.

Likable, multi-dimensional characters and a colorful small town setting made this an enjoyable read. I loved the descriptions of Dev’s dime store, from the old-fashioned cash register to the soda fountains and paperback book racks. I could easily picture myself there. I’d recommend this book to mystery fans who don’t mind some spiciness between the book covers. 😉 I’m eagerly anticipating the next Deveraux’s Dime Store Mystery!

Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.