Thursday, 1 October 2015

Blog Tour: Review + Q&A: Murder On Sea by Julie Wassmer (Cosy Mystery, Shop fiction, Food fiction, Crime, 8/10E)

 1st October 2015, Little, Brown, Hardback, Review copy 

Content: some murder, lots of suspense, some humour 

Book summary
The festive month is kicking off in style and Pearl is rushed off her feet with her restaurant, The Whitstable Pearl. She's also busy planning her own family Christmas and providing mulled wine for a charity church fundraiser when Christmas cards begin arriving all over town - filled with spiteful messages from an anonymous writer. 

Pearl's curiosity is piqued but having pledged not to take on a case at her detective agency before Christmas, she reluctantly agrees that Canterbury's DCI Mike McGuire should take over; poisoned pen cards are after all a matter for the police. And with only the church fundraiser now between Pearl and Christmas, she invites McGuire along as her guest. The event appears to be a great success; St Alfred's church hall is packed and Pearl happily finds herself standing close to McGuire beneath some mistletoe . . . but then a guest suddenly collapses. Too much of Pearl's delicious mulled wine - or could it be something more sinister?

The last thing Pearl expects for Christmas is murder but soon the bodies are piling up. Can Pearl possibly solve the mystery in time to make 25th Decemberan unforgettable day - or will the murderer contrive to ensure her goose is well and truly cooked before then?
Nayu's thoughts
I was super eager to dive back into Pearl's world since I enjoyed book 1, The Whitstable Pearl so much (see suggested read below for the link to my review). It's a fairly good 2nd in a series book filled with humour, chaos and murder. I liked feeling that I knew most of the characters, especially Pearl's mother who always makes me smile with her antics. I was a little sad that her son Charlie didn't have more page time, since he had such a prominent role in book 1, but the mysterious note sand murder kept me nicely distracted. 

There is an awful lot of suspense and spine tingling moments, which in my eyes are elements of a brilliant book. I only figured out the murderer right before they got revealed, as they hid their tracks from me, Pearl, & McGuire well. However I guessed what the poison was fairly early on, which pleased me!
 I spent most of the book caught up in the drama, rolling my eyes semi-good naturedly about Pearl's feelings for McGuire, getting spooked by the messages which made the murderer that bit more sinister. I did like that McGuire ended up being further involved in the murders than he'd have liked, as it altered how Pearl investigated it a bit. As ever I adored all the restaurant goings on - you know how much I love what I call 'shop fiction'!
Ordinarily such a good read would gain full marks, but there was one thing which I really wasn't keen on. Please bear in mind this is my own opinion, as both a reviewer and a writer. Because I enjoy the rest of the book so much, and Julie is very lovely, I'm finding it hard to phrase what I feel, so apologies if I'm a bit blunt. There was one chapter in the book which I felt was unnecessary as it was predominantly full of description rather than action. There was a smidge of information about the plot revealed at the start, but the rest of it had me bored. I'm not against descriptions of places, and I know Julie lives in Whitstable so knows it well, I just didn't see the point of such an extensive description. I stopped at the end of the chapter to figure out my views on it, and the fact that I did that instead of just continuing on reading impacted the overall grade. I feel that if that chapter had been axed it wouldn't have affected the plot. 

That chapter aside, I truly love Pearl's friends and family, who have their own quirks and provide entertainment when murder arises. I like the depth of the characters, how Pearl has several things going on in her life alongside the murder, which is realistic because life never happens neatly. I am excited for book 3, though I'm not sure when that's going out! 

Follow Julie on Twitter to get the latest information about her books.

Available to buy at many bookstores including NRC affiliate Foyles. 

Suggested read
Question and Answer session with Julie Wassmer

Nayu here! It's with great delight that I was able to ask Julie some questions as part of this blog tour. I'm sure you'll love her answers as much as I do! Many thanks to Julie for writing a fun series!

Nayu: Q1) Of all the characters Pearl and her mother are my favourites - what led to their individual creation as well as the amusing dynamics between them?
  Julie: It's so nice to learn that you like Pearl and her mother, Dolly! And your question is an interesting one because, for a time, I toyed with the idea of having a male protagonist  until I decided I wanted to explore the dilemma of a mother faced with "empty nest syndrome" after her son has gone off to university, leaving her with time to pursue old ambitions....

Pearl and her own mother are opposites in so many ways. Dolly is a rebel while Pearl likes order and Dolly is a hopeless cook while Pearl is an excellent chef with her own restaurant, The Whitstable Pearl, but they do complement one another which can be a great help when solving crime and, at the end of the day, in spite of all their disagreements theirs is a relationship based on a  firm foundation of love.

Q2) Is there a reason why Pearl had an older son? Sometimes heroines are single at the story’s start, without children, which Pearl isn’t.
 Pearl's life as a private detective actually begins when her son, Charlie, heads off to university and she tries to fill some of the vacuum created by his absence by starting up Nolan's Detective Agency. It's a time of adjustment for Pearl as, in the first book of the series, The Whitstable Pearl Mystery, she's confronting her 40th birthday as well as  Charlie leaving home, so the books begin at a point when she's embarking on a new stage of life. If this were a play, we could call it the second act  - a time in Pearl's life when she can revisit old dreams and see if she really can become the detective she always felt herself to be. 

 Q3) Trouble and Pearl go hand in hand - what research do you do to spark off new ideas for how/when/where/why someone gets murdered?
 Good question! I think writers use anything and everything for their inspiration. As Murder-on-Sea is set during the run up to Christmas I began to think about Christmas cards and what would happen if someone used them to send poison pen messages. I also thought about Christmas drinks parties and the possibility of someone being poisoned at such an event. Often, however, ideas simply emerge very organically from the personalities of my characters. What is it about them that would provoke someone to murder them? Is there something in their past or something that's about to happen in their future which spurs the murderer to act? Settings infuence things too. My first book, The Whitstable Pearl Mystery, was set during the town's annual oyster festival so it seemed natural that the very first murder should be of a local oyster fisherman - at sea. I then worked backwards to discover who might have the greatest motive...

Q4) Pearl’s restaurant plays a role in the story - what made you choose a seafood restaurant instead of a coffee shop or a café? Why choose it for Pearl’s main career?
Whitstable is a fishing town and Pearl's father was an oyster fisherman from whom she inherited a love of the sea. The town is also famous for its native oysters, cultivated since Roman times, so it seemed natural for Pearl to open a restaurant that specialised in seafood - especially oysters. Canterbury police detective, DCI Mike McGuire insists he's allergic to oysters - but he's clearly attracted to another Whitstable native - Pearl.

Q5) Where’s your favourite writing spot? Do you like to eat or drink anything in particular while you work?
Another interesting question! My favourite writing spots are always outdoors.  Ideas seem to come to me best when I'm either in the garden or on the beach here in Whitstable - but my very favourite writing spot is in my beach hut, on the porch, looking out to sea with a flask of tea to keep me going. But once there, I usually need one more thing - warm weather!

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