Friday, September 18, 2020

Five Things You Might Not Know About Agatha Christie

 By superfan Shari Randall


September 15 marked the 130th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth and I've been celebrating all week. Please join me in raising a cup of tea in a toast to Dame Agatha, one of the most influential and successful novelists of all time. Her genre, the traditional mystery, has remained popular with readers since she published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920.


Most are familiar with the biography of Agatha Christie. The mega-selling (over two billion copies) author’s work is rediscovered by every generation and celebrated with a splashy, star-studded movie (the latest, Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile, is slated for October). Born to a wealthy family in Torquay, England, she was homeschooled and taught herself to read at age five. She had an ill-fated whirlwind marriage to Royal Flying Corps aviator Archie Christie and her disappearance when she discovered his affair caused a sensation. Her work in pharmacies during the war gave her a wonderfully deep and useful knowledge of poisons. Her happy second marriage to archaeologist Max Mallowan, and their travels, inspired some of her most popular books.


Her work continues to delight, inspire, and yes, confound 44 years after her death – from natural causes - in 1976 at age 85.

Here are a few lesser known facts about the Queen of Mystery:


Dame Agatha had a rose named after her: “Agatha Christie” is a “Beautiful rich, pink Hybrid Tea shaped blooms that are lightly fragrant. A strong growing disease-resistant climber with outstanding dark-green, glossy foliage. Repeat Bloom.”


She is the only female dramatist to have had three plays – Spider’s Web, Witness for the Prosecution, and The Mousetrap - running simultaneously in London’s West End.


She owned many dogs and her favorite breed was the terrier. Her first dog was named George Washington. Her favorite was a short-haired terrier called Peter that she wrote into Dumb Witness as “Bob.”


In 1922, Archie was asked to tour several areas of the British Empire to promote the British Empire Exhibition. He and Agatha stopped in Hawaii and the couple learned to surf, possibly becoming two of the first Europeans to master the sport.


Her daughter Rosalind, fiercely private like her mother, had one son, Matthew Prichard, with her first husband. Mathew received the sole rights to The Mousetrap for his ninth birthday.


There’s a misspelling on her gravestone. See if you can spot it.



What’s your favorite Agatha Christie book? Mine’s Murder on the Orient Express.

Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery series. Her debut, CURSES, BOILED AGAIN, won the Agatha Award (yes, named for Agatha Christie) for best first novel. You can see what's new with her at or see her mermaid obsession on Instagram @sharirandallauthor.




Thursday, September 17, 2020

Smoke of a Distant Fire

 Smoke of a Distant Fire

By Cathy Perkins

Wildfires continue to devastate large swaths of California, Oregon and Washington, leaving death and destruction of lives, towns, and forests behind them.

I started to open this post with bullet points, such as:

  • Climate change is real
  • Science is real

But I generally leave the politics to my blog mate, Kay.

Here at The Stiletto Gang, we try to entertain and educate. Sometimes the posts are about books and sometimes about whatever subject inspired our latest story. But sometimes, the post is simply to inform.

Today, I want to tell you about smoke and the dangers of smoke inhalation. In a burning building, smoke inhalation overwhelms most victims, but with wildfires, smoke can be a widespread, more subtle danger. While the type and amount of particles and chemicals in smoke varies depending on what’s burning, how much oxygen is available, and the burn temperature, all smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter.

In very broad terms, these are the effects of those three components. Inhaling carbon monoxide decreases the body's oxygen supply. (It attaches more tightly to the red blood cell, preventing oxygen from reaching tissue in your body.) This can cause headaches, reduce alertness, and aggravate a heart condition known as angina. Fine particles can travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. Inhaling fine particles can cause a variety of health effects, including respiratory irritation and shortness of breath, and can worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. During increased physical exertion, cardiovascular effects can be worsened by exposure to carbon monoxide and particulate matter. Once exposure stops, symptoms from inhaling carbon monoxide or fine particles generally diminish, but may last for a couple of days.

The CDC has a one-page information sheet that you may find interesting or helpful.

On a personal level, I’m surrounded by three major wildfires. Cold Creek to the northeast, Evans Canyon to the southeast and smoke from the Oregon fires pushing in from the south and west. So, the air quality here has been in the “very unhealthy” zone for a week. It occasionally topples over into “hazardous” territory, which basically means don’t go outside if you can help it. We’ve kept the house closed up, but inevitably smoke comes in every time we do go outside, so it’s less of a sanctuary now.

The view looking out my door: 

Yeah, there's normally a forest and a mountain visible out there. 

Staying home, limiting the social bubble, was tough enough when we could get outside and hike or golf or just sit by the river. After a week inside the house, I have even more sympathy for my friends in Brooklyn and other large cities, where “getting outside” might mean sitting on the front steps of your building. I’m also battling burning eyes, swollen sinuses, a headache and a general feeling of, can I just curl up on the couch?

Pray for rain and offer thanks to the dedicated firefighters who are slowly containing the fires.

And now I have that song as an earworm…

You left me here...

Girl your eyes…

An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.  Visit her at or on Facebook 

Sign up for her new release announcement newsletter in either place.

She's hard at work on the sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, which was recently presented with the Claymore Award. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Two Truths and a Lie

by Saralyn Richard


When I was a high school administrator, one of my favorite ice-breakers for meetings was the game, Two Truths and a Lie. If you’ve never played it, each person at the table comes up with three facts about herself, one of which is not true. The others at the table have to guess which fact is the lie.

            This game is particularly fun for people who love mysteries. The participants have to put on their sleuth hats, use clues about what they already know about the speaker, and, once the lie is announced, praise or chastise themselves for their deductive wisdom.

            Since this is Back to School month, I thought I’d write a version of Two Truths and a Lie, and let you guess. Are you ready? Here goes…

            Fact #1: After decades of living in a totally different area of the country, I returned to my hometown, and I live in the house I grew up in.

            Fact #2: I started thinking of myself as an author when my sophomore English teacher told me that’s what I should do for a career.

            Fact #3: I’m married to a police detective, and that’s who my series protagonist, Oliver Parrott, is patterned after.


            Before we get to the solution, let me tell you a little about A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER, which is my latest release. Second in the Detective Parrott mystery series, the book takes you back to the beautiful, serene Brandywine Valley in Pennsylvania, where the landscape is lush, the mansions are huge, and the secrets are deep. Two valuable paintings, taken from the artist’s own studio, start Parrott on his next case. Soon theft turns into murder, and Parrott is thrust into a complicated case that becomes all-too-personal.

            Here’s what novelist, William Kent Krueger, author of THIS TENDER LAND, has to say about it:

“In the Brandywine Valley, a delicate balance exists between the very wealthy and those who serve them, but the murder of a famous artist threatens this tenuous equilibrium. In her second outing featuring Detective Parrott, author Saralyn Richard offers readers a compelling story of worlds in collision. A Palette For Love and Murder probes more than the mysteries of the art world and the motives for murder. Satisfied readers will discover that it also delicately plumbs the depths of love and the human heart. This is another winner for Richard.”

            A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER has been honored with the Silver Medal in the category of Mystery/Sleuth in the 2020 Readers Favorite contest and the finalist status in the 2020 International Book Fest contest’s mystery/suspense category. You can purchase the book at your indie bookstore or online at



Back to the ice-breaker—if you chose Fact #1, you didn’t guess that I might have returned “home” in 2005 to the house that I grew up in. That’s true, and I love being surrounded by wonderful memories of family and friends and good times.

If you chose Fact #2, you didn’t guess that my English teacher, Mari Allmond, inspired me to become a writer (and a teacher), and, she continues to inspire me all these years later. By the way, one of the main characters in A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER is named after Mari.

If you chose Fact #3, you solved the case with the best of them! Congratulations! I’m married to a wonderful guy, who is my alpha reader and adviser in many topics, but he has never been a police detective.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for playing along. I hope Back-to-School month brings you good health, lots of interesting activities, and much joy.





Friday, September 11, 2020

My World is Upside Down

My World is Upside Down by Debra H. Goldstein

I should be promoting my new book, Three Treats Too Many, the third book in the Sarah Blair mystery series that was released last week, but I’ve been busy. We moved.

Moving is not for sissies. Moving is not for anyone. It’s exhausting – especially if you sell the house you lived in for fifteen years in seven hours and need to move into temporary housing ten days later. This translates into moving everything you own into 3 storage bins. Six weeks later, everything came out of storage and was brought to the house.

The kitchen alone had just under 40 boxes to unpack, but we got them done.  Other than needing to go through some more books and get a stand for my printer and a record player, the boxes downstairs are gone.

Anyway, I’m going to cut myself some slack this week and ask you to consider doing three things:

1) Join me and other members of Booklovers Bench  (Maggie Toussaint, Nancy J. Cohen, Cheryl Hollon, and Anna Gerald/Diane A.S. Stuckart) for our Fall Cozy Mystery Party on September 14 

2)    Think about purchasing or having your library purchase Three Treats Too Many – or read it and pass it on to a friend. Remember, it is a standalone, but for one day, today, September 11, you can get a kindle or e-book copy of One Taste Too Many for only $1.99 -

3)    Grab a book, mine preferred, curl up somewhere and enjoy a few hours of respite.