Teresa Trent sets her series at the haunted Tunie Hotel in Piney Woods, Texas. Nora Alexander, who returned to Piney Woods to fulfill her mother’s last wish, is charged with reinvigorating the failing hotel, but in the first two books in the series she is more preoccupied with murder.
Does it sometimes seem that all cozy mysteries are set in New England or the Deep South? Texas is equally fertile ground for murder, from the Hill Country to the Piney Woods. Some forthcoming and recent releases illustrate this well.
Kaye George has chosen to set her new series, Vintage Sweets Mysteries, in historic Fredericksburg because she likes the town and thinks it has a cozy feel. The string of shops along Main Street, she thought, would be the perfect setting for Old Tyme Sweets. So she created Tally Holt who puts her life savings into the shop which will sell twinkies, fudge, and taffy, made from her grandmother’s recipes, to the tourists who throng to that town.
In the first book, Revenge is Sweet (Lyrical Underground), due out March 10, Tally stumbles over the stabbed body of local handyman Gene Faust in her kitchen. Gene just happens to be the mayor’s adopted son and also the local Casanova with a bad habit of borrowing money from the women he courts, including Yolanda Bella, who owns Bella’s Baskets, next door to Tally’s store. Yolanda’s scissors are found at the scene. Other suspects are plentiful among the women of Fredericksburg, but Tally must find out which one is guilty—or she and Yolanda will both lose their businesses.
A recipe will be included in each book in this projected series of three. Kaye, who used to live in Taylor, Texas, but now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, is the author of several series, including the Fat Cat cozies, the Imogene Duckworthy series, People of the Wind Neanderthal Mysteries, and Cressa Carraway Musical Mysteries.
From sweets to ghosts. Teresa Trent sets her series at the haunted Tunie Hotel in Piney Woods, Texas. Nora Alexander, who returned to Piney Woods to fulfill her mother’s last wish, is charged with reinvigorating the failing hotel, but in the first two books in the series she is more preoccupied with murder. In the third book, just out in January, Die, Die Blackbird (January 20, 2020/Epicenter Press), Nora finds herself dragged, almost literally, into the world of ghost hunters. A famous husband-and-wife team of ghost hunters, stars of the Paranormal Party TV show, descend on the town and hotel because of the legend that Sam Houston buried a cache of gold nearby, having taken the gold as spoils of battle from Santa Anna. Rumor was that Piney Woods once was home to a house of ill repute and Houston had a lady friend there.
Jack and Daisy Foley set up their hunting equipment in the Tunie, displacing and displeasing the Piney Wood Stitchers who regularly meet there. The Foleys pinpoint the supposed location of the buried treasure—in the parking lot of an auto repair shop owned by the town‘s most surly citizen, Butch Allman. Allman, who’s ex-wife and daughter are Stitchers, is murdered. Ghost hunters and Stitchers tangle, and Nora finds herself in the midst of a murder investigation. But she keeps getting confusing messages from “the other side.” Ghostly suspense prevails, but the love of Nora’s life, Tuck Watson of the local police, can’t quite believe in ghosts. Quirky characters about in this story, from Dominic, the hotel receptionist who has ambitions to be a paranormal investigator, to the elderly spinster quilting twins who complete each other’s sentences.
Teresa Trent, who lives in the Houston area, specializes in mysteries set in small Texas towns. Her Pecan Bayou Mysteries feature a character with Down’s syndrome because after the birth of her son with the syndrome she realized there were few people like him in cozy mysteries. The first two titles in the Piney Woods series are Murder of a Good Man and A Sneeze to Die For.
News: Expect more mystery news out of the Houston area. Carol Bennett writes that Houston now has a newly organized chapter of Sisters in Crime. The twenty-member chapter meets at Murder by the Book from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on the third Sunday of each month, except June and January when they will meet on the fourth Sunday.
Miscellaneous notes: In January Barnes & Noble published Death Bee Comes Her, a new mystery by Texas author Nancy Parra, writing as Nancy Coco. Set on the Oregon coast, it revolves around the murder of a craft woman and has lots of honeybee lore in it . . . Murder Once Removed, by S. C. Perkins, is now available in paperback. First published in March 2019, the book was the 2017 Malice Domestic Best Traditional First Novel in the long-running manuscript contest.