Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Deep End by Julie Mulhern | Blog Tour with Review, Excerpt, Guest Post, and Giveaway


The Blurb

Swimming into the lifeless body of her husband’s mistress tends to ruin a woman’s day, but becoming a murder suspect can ruin her whole life.

It’s 1974 and Ellison Russell’s life revolves around her daughter and her art. She’s long since stopped caring about her cheating husband, Henry, and the women with whom he entertains himself. That is, until she becomes a suspect in Madeline Harper’s death. The murder forces Ellison to confront her husband’s proclivities and his crimes — kinky sex, petty cruelties and blackmail.

As the body count approaches par on the seventh hole, Ellison knows she has to catch a killer. But with an interfering mother, an adoring father, a teenage daughter, and a cadre of well-meaning friends demanding her attention, can Ellison find the killer before he finds her?

The Deep End by Julie Mulhern
Series: The Country Club Murders, #1
Genre: Humorous Mystery, Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Henery Press
Publication Date: February 17, 2015
Hardcover: 276 pages
ISBN-10: 1941962262
ISBN-13: 978-1941962268
Paperback: 280 pages
ISBN-10: 1941962238
ISBN-13: 978-1941962237
eBook File Size: 518 KB
ASIN: B00PWE819Q


The Excerpt


       

There’s a difference between dawn’s lavender and dusk’s lavender. At dawn, a lavender sky is pure and hopeful. At dusk, the same color makes promises that are far from innocent. 

Henry was positively bathed in lavender light.

He was a philanderer, a blackmailer, possibly a murderer, and definitely my soon-to-be ex-husband, but for a half-second, I was glad to see him. Glad to know he wasn’t dead and that he hadn’t abandoned Grace entirely. Then his handsome features scrunched up into the smug, superior smirk that was half to blame for the death of our marriage and I wished he’d stayed missing.

“Do you want to go talk to him?” Hunter asked.

Oh dear Lord. “No.” It would end in a scene. Free entertainment for everyone on the terrace with scathing reviews appearing on the phone lines first thing in the morning.

Hunter’s lips quirked. “Another dance?”

“Another drink. Let’s go back to the table.”

Henry’s expression turned dark when he realized I wasn’t going to come skipping over just because he’d deigned to appear. He could glower all he wanted. I wasn’t one of the women who wanted to please him and I wasn’t going to go trotting over like a dutiful wife when what I really wanted to do was borrow an Oldsmobile station wagon, the country club version of a Sherman tank, and run him down.


The Guest Post

My daughter announced she had to write an essay on Boo Radley.

“Do you love To Kill a Mockingbird?” I asked. I did. After years of books like The Scarlet Letter, The Brothers Karamazov and The Metamorphosis, Harper Lee’s novel was a delight.

“No,” she replied. “We’ve been analyzing it for weeks.”

“Forget about the stuff you talk about it in class. Didn’t you like reading it?”

“I guess it was okay.”

Okay? To Kill a Mockingbird?

Her teacher analyzed the joy out of a book my daughter should have loved.

This is why I write a genre fiction. No one spends time pondering the color of my characters’ socks or bedrooms or the light across the water. What I care about — what I hope my readers care about — is good pacing, interesting characters who grow and change, and a satisfying ending. Hopefully they’ll chuckle a few times as well.

The Deep End begins with a woman trapped by expectations. It isn’t until Ellison Russell finds a body floating in the pool during her morning swim that she begins to break free of those expectations. Unfortunately, in the process of discovering her inner strength, she also discovers a few things that make her a target for a murderer.

If you read The Deep End, and I hope you do, please don’t look for hidden meaning. Instead, settle into your favorite reading nook with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and enjoy.


An excerpt follows:

June, 1974 
Kansas City, Missouri 

My morning swim doesn’t usually involve corpses. If it did, I’d give up swimming for something less stressful, like coaxing cobras out of baskets or my mother out of bed before ten. 

Watching the sun rise over the seventh green is often the best part of my day. I dive into the pool while the water is still inky. When the light has changed from deepest indigo to lavender, I break my stroke, tread water and admire the sky as it bleeds from gold to yellow to pink. It’s a ritual, a metaphorical cleansing, a moment of stolen peace.

After all, I have a teenage daughter, a mother with strong opinions, a Weimaraner named Max who plots to take over our house on his path toward world domination, and a husband. Much as I’d like to, I can’t leave him out.

I kicked off my Dr. Scholl’s, tossed my husband’s button-down onto a deck chair, dove into the dark water and gasped at the sudden, encompassing cold. That shock of chilly water against my skin is better than coffee when it comes to waking up. Maybe not better. Faster. 

My legs kicked, my arms sliced and I settled into the comforting rhythm of the Australian crawl. My fingers knifed through the water, anticipating the smooth parting of liquid. They found fabric and the horrific touch of cold flesh.

  ***

I watched the sunrise from a deck chair. It was not cathartic or peaceful. It was awful. The police swarmed around the pool like industrious ants, pausing only when someone jumped into the water and floated the body to the side. They fished it out and laid it at the edge of the pool. 

I turned my head away. I didn’t want to see. 

A man wearing a truly unfortunate pair of plaid pants broke away from the ants and sat on the deck chair next to mine. “Are you all right? Do you want a glass of water?” He had nice eyes. Brown. Like coffee. 

“Coffee,” I croaked. 

He waved at the ants and a moment later one of them appeared with a thermos. He poured some caffeinated ambrosia into the red plastic top and handed it to me. 

“Thank you.” 

“I’m afraid we don’t have cream or sugar.” 

“Black is fine.” I took a sip to prove it. 

“I’m Detective Jones. Can you tell me what happened this morning?” 

“I was swimming.” 

“Without a lifeguard?” I could hear the disapproval in his voice. Detective Jones, purveyor of thermos coffee, wearer of plaid pants, was a follower of rules. I used to like that in a man. There’s something comforting about someone who colors within the lines. Problems arise when a strict follower of rules decides to forsake them. He doesn’t just jaywalk. Nope. A lifetime of good behavior gives him the right to sleep with other women. Or, if he’s slightly more powerful, order a break-in at Watergate. Goes to show, you can’t trust anyone these days. Not husbands. Not presidents. Not cops.




The Review

I just read an amazing book, y'all — The Deep End by Julie Mulhern. Let me tell you a little about it.

The Deep End is not-quite-cozy, or a twisted cozy. A few sections even allude to Fifty Shades of cozy, perhaps not for your tween-ager or your grandma. Per Author Julie Mulhern, The Deep End is a PG-rated uncozy mystery.

The setting is Kansas City in 1974. The accurate details from 1974 that Julie Mulhern includes — such as clothing, perfumes, politics, movies, music, and TV shows — make her worldbuilding in The Deep End  perfect. 


The characters are all very interesting and well-written, and most are quite likable — even the villain (well, until the villain's villainy is revealed). My favorite characters are the protagonist Ellison Russell, her mother Frances Walford, and her teenage daughter Grace.


Grace is one of my favorite characters because I can relate to her so well. I too was a teenager in 1974, had crushes on Davy Jones and Paul McCartney, and wore Love's Baby Soft cologne. 


Ellison is a favorite for many reasons. I like her spirit. I like her sense of humor and snark, such as here, just after she has identified the body in the pool to the detective.

"You didn't like her." It wasn't a question.
"How can you tell?"
"You don't seem upset."
"I didn't like her."
Ellison gave me many chuckles and LOL moments, by way of her conversations and thoughts. Here is one of my favorite passages, showing Ellison's (and Julie's!) sense of humor:
My jaw dropped to my chest. Mother had dropped an f-bomb. I hadn't realized she knew the word, much less how to use it correctly in a sentence.
I like how Ellison grows and changes for the better, and retains her high moral standards, despite her husband's actions.
I was stodgy. I was boring. I believed in monogamy. I believed marriage should be a partnership not a power exchange.
I can relate to Ellison because, when I was her age, I had my own domineering mother to deal with. I admire Ellison because she eventually handles the situation with her mother very well, and so much better than I did with mine. 

Speaking of Ellison's mother, Frances Walford is one of my favorite characters because of the loyalty and caring she shows towards Ellison. This is one of my favorite passages:
She glided across the room and put it in my grateful hands.
"We're not sure Mrs. Russell can have coffee," Nurse Sally objected.
Mother raised a brow. "We? I'm quite sure my daughter can have all the coffee she wants."
I loosened the lid and took a sip. Hot and delicious with just the right amount of cream. I sighed. "Thank you, Mother." Sometimes Frances Walford was rather fabulous.
Ellison's mother usually shows this caring about Ellison only to other people, though, not to Ellison. To Ellison, she is domineering and interfering. She's also fear-inducing, as this passage, which occurs just after Ellison discovers the body of her husband's mistress, illustrates:
The wronged wife who found her was going to be the prime suspect.
A murder suspect. Me. Ellison Walford Russell. Mother was going to kill me.
I toyed with the idea of asking Detective Jones to put me in protective custody.
In some other cozy mysteries, it irks me when the sleuthing is done for lame reasons. Author Julie Mulhern has included one of the best rationales for amateur sleuthing that I have read. Ellison found 21 envelopes in their safe, with a different name on each one. She looked in two people's envelopes, both of which contained incriminating photos, and left the rest unopened. This passage (redacted for your protection) describes Ellison telling her lawyer about the envelopes.
"I think one of these people probably killed Henry. We need to find out which one."
"You need to turn these over to the police."
"Look at the names."
He did.
Two judges, a congressman, four company chief executives, a philanthropist, the mayor, and a past president of the Junior League were among those whose names were listed. If I gave the envelopes to the police, I'd ruin the lives of so many innocent people. Well, maybe not innocent — but definitely influential. If I gave their files to the police, I could count Grace and myself in the number of ruined lives.
Hunter flipped through the envelopes and seemed to grasp the gravity of my situation. At least his brows drew together and his lips thinned. "What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to help me figure out who murdered my husband. Quietly."
The pacing was just right. I finished The Deep End in one day, because I was dying ;) to discover the identity of the killer. Ellison and I were both quite surprised to learn whodunit, by the way. Afterwards, I looked back through the book, and the clues are there for the more discriminating reader.

There's much more I could tell you about why I like The Deep End by Julie Mulhern so much, but to do so would reveal spoilers, so I will just say READ THE BOOK! The Deep End is fabulous, and well-deserving of our highest rating of Five Kitties!


Five out of five kitties


Note:  I received a complimentary copy of The Deep End in exchange for my honest review. 

All opinions shared are 100% my own.




The Author

About Julie Mulhern



Julie Mulhern is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean — and she’s got an active imagination. Truth is — she’s an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions. 

Julie is a 2014 Golden Heart® Finalist. The Deep End is her first mystery and is the winner of The Sheila Award.


Find her on the web at



The Giveaway

Julie will award an eBook copy of The Deep End 
to a randomly drawn winner (int.) via rafflecopter during the tour.
(a Jane Reads giveaway)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the tour here, to enter other giveaways and read more excerpts, interviews, and guest posts.






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