Monday, July 20, 2015

The Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection by Barbara Venkataraman | Blog Tour with Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway

The Blurb

The Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection by Barbara Venkataraman
Box Set Books 1 - 3
Death by Didgeridoo
The Case of the Killer Divorce
Peril in the Park
Series: Jamie Quinn Mystery, # 1 - 3
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: September 3, 2014
eBook File Size: 839 KB
Print Length: 338 pages

Death by Didgeridoo — Winner of the Indie Book of the Day award. Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It's up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it's too late. It doesn't help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn't commit. 

Death by Didgeridoo
A Jamie Quinn Mystery, #1

The Case of the Killer Divorce — Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, has returned to her family law practice after a hiatus due to the death of her mother. It's business as usual until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation, and Jamie's client becomes the prime suspect. When she can't untangle truth from lies, Jamie enlists the help of Duke Broussard, her favorite private investigator, to try to clear her client's name. And she’s hoping that, in his spare time, he can help her find her long-lost father. 

The Case of the Killer Divorce
A Jamie Quinn Mystery, #2

Peril in the Park — There's big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn's boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can't figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late. 

Peril in the Park
A Jamie Quinn Mystery, #3

A preview of the next Jamie Quinn Mystery, Engaged in Danger, can be found at the end of the book.

The Review

I read a really good book recently, y'all — well, three books, actually — The Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection by Barbara Venkataraman. Let me tell you a little about them.

The Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection consists of Books 1 - 3 in the series — Death by DidgeridooThe Case of the Killer Divorce,  and Peril in the Park. The mysteries in these books caught my interest from the start. The recurring characters are ones I really like and care about. The writing is excellent, as is the editing.  

Jamie narrates the three books, which adds to my enjoyment of the collection, because of Jamie's great sense of humor. Here are examples from Death by Didgeridoo:
I was feeling a little panicky, I must admit. Ten years as a lawyer and what did I know about criminal law? Only what I'd learned from watching a Law and Order marathon one Sunday — and I'd slept through most of it. In other words, nothing.

...the inner office [of the police department] was a humming beehive. Alas, I must report that it looked nothing like the set of Castle or The Mentalist. How disappointing. I knew my day would be going downhill from there....

"...Turns out his real name was Melvin Duane Shiprock. What kinda name is Melvin?" Duke was snickering.
"This, from the guy whose name is Marmaduke?"

I really like Author Barbara Venkataraman's writing style in these short novels. She paints word pictures such as these:

From Death by Didgeridoo:
The thought-gathering was her idea. Now, six months later, I am still trying to gather them, but it's no use. They are shadow puppets, gray wisps flitting through my brain, and they refuse to be caught.

From The Case of the Killer Divorce:
We were ushered into a drab room where everything was brown, the carpet, the table, the chairs. Even the walls were beige. It looked like a room where hope went to die.

Barbara also uses a conversational style of narration for Jamie, which I really enjoy, since Jamie (and Barbara) are so funny. 

From Death by Didgeridoo:
...the first thing I did when I got in the house was make a sandwich — a peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich, to be exact. Now, I know what you're thinking, you're thinking that sounds gross, but you shouldn't knock it 'til you've tried it.

From The Case of the Killer Divorce:
Time for a new sofa! I mean, how could I enjoy 'quality couch time' if I didn't have a couch that was up to the task? 

I'm glad I have a rational side, because if the wimpy, scaredy-cat side ever took over, I'd spend the rest of my life hiding under the covers. Seriously.

Monday morning found me back at work, but not exactly working. I was off to a slow start — surfing the web, reading the news, checking out Facebook — basically, anything I could do to avoid work. I'm a master procrastinator, but, like any acquired skill, it took me years of practice.  

From Peril in the Park:
Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Jamie Quinn and I'm a family law attorney. I've lived in Hollywood, Florida my whole life (so far, anyway)....

Author Barbara Venkataraman has created some unique and personable recurring characters, such as Jamie, her bestie Grace, her P.I. Duke, and (not appearing until Book 2) her current (and ex-high-school) boyfriend Kip. Here is a great conversation between Jamie and Grace, about Jamie's first grown-up date with Kip, from The Case of the Killer Divorce:
"Well, did you have fun? Did you make another date? Come on, Jamie, you're killing me!"
I laughed. "Yes and yes. I had an amazing time and we're going out again next Saturday. Kip's really great." I hesitated.
"I hear a 'but' coming," Grace said.
"Well, it's just that... how do I say this? He's so interesting and I'm so boring! Kip's like 'Mr. Adventure,' always looking for a mountain to climb, while I'm happy spending the day at Barnes & Noble. He's going to figure it out pretty soon." 
Grace started laughing so hard, she had to put the phone down. "Jamie, honey, if he didn't figure that out yesterday, he's never going to."
"Figure out that I'm boring?" I was feeling a little insulted, even though I'd said it first.
"No, that you're the opposite of adventurous."
"I guess you're right," I said. "There's no hiding the real me. But next Saturday we're going to another park, this time to water-ski!"
Grace chuckled. "I definitely need pictures of that. Maybe for your next date, you can take him to Barnes & Noble."

At the end of Peril in the Park, Author Barbara Venkataraman has included the first chapter of her next Jamie Quinn Mystery, Book 4, coming in September 2015. The blurb and Chapter One of Engaged in Danger are quite interesting and intriguing. I am looking forward to reading Engaged in Danger. How about you?    

I really enjoyed The Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection by Barbara Venkataraman, and recommend it to all fans of cozy mysteries. I rated Death by Didgeridoo Four Kitties, The Case of the Killer Divorce Five Kitties (the last chapter is absolutely fabulous!),  and Peril in the Park Four Kitties. The entire Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection has earned a rating of Four Kitties! 

Four out of five kitties

Note:  I received a complimentary copy of the  Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection in exchange for my honest review. 
All opinions shared are 100% my own.

Follow the tour, to read other reviews and Author Guest Posts, plus Author Interviews! 

The Guest Post

Inspiration, Brainstorming and Keeping One's Head

Let's talk about Scheherazade, shall we? You remember her--the legendary Arabic queen and star of One Thousand and One Nights. She had the misfortune of marrying a king with a nasty habit of killing his wife every night and marrying a new one the next day. Luckily, she was very clever and a master storyteller and has provided us with the first documented case of the cliffhanger. On her first night with her new husband (which was also slated to be her last night with her new husband), she told him a fascinating story, spinning a tale all night long and stopping at dawn, right at the juiciest part of the story. Her curious, but still murderous husband told her she could live one more night, just to finish the story. She did finish and then started a new story every single night for a thousand and one nights until he finally told her she was so interesting he would allow her to live. That's almost three years' worth of stories, people! And you thought you were stressed about deadlines…

When your head isn't literally on the chopping block, it can be difficult to find inspiration, so what's an author to do? The prolific Stephen King, who never seems to run out of story ideas, says that his secret is to take interesting characters and put them in an interesting situation and see what happens. One of his recent books, Cell, provides a great example. King makes no secret of the fact that he hates cell phones, so why not make them the villain of the story? The premise, according to Wikipedia is this: it is an apocalyptic horror novel in which a New England artist struggles to reunite with his young son after a mysterious signal broadcast over the global cell phone network turns the majority of his fellow humans into mindless vicious animals. There are definite possibilities in that scenario, wouldn't you say?

Yes, you agree politely, but he's Stephen King, and I'm not. How am I supposed to brainstorm something brilliant? Ah, that's the key right there. It doesn't have to be brilliant--in fact, it can be the stupidest idea you've ever had! But it may lead you somewhere if you go with it, follow it, twist it, flip it on its head. You should defy your own expectations and, most importantly, keep asking why. Why does your character go to New York? Who he is going to see? Does he want to go or is he being forced to go? Is he running from something? How does he get there? What obstacles must he overcome? Pursue every avenue, exhaust every possibility and then throw another character into the mix. What are her motivations? What is their relationship? And then comes the most important question you'll ever ask about any imaginary scenario: What is the conflict? No conflict, no story, it’s that simple. Things must go wrong, fall apart, and look bleaker than bleak before you can write that happy ending. But it doesn't have to be an external conflict, it can be internal. 

In my first Jamie Quinn Mystery, Death by Didgeridoo, the protagonist, Jamie, is depressed about the death of her mother. She has taken a hiatus from work that has stretched into six months and still, she cannot get her act together. That is an internal conflict. Then her Aunt Peg calls, frantic, because her disabled son Adam has been accused of murder and she begs Jamie for help. Jamie is a family law attorney who knows nothing about criminal law but very much wants to help. When she arrives at the police station, she gets into an argument with the cocky young state attorney who wants to bolster his reputation by making an example out of Adam. Jamie soon realizes that the only person who can help her track down the real killer is someone she despises. Conflicts all over the place! See what I mean?

A good source of ideas is the daily news. People are doing the craziest stuff all the time; you can't make up some of this stuff. I live in Florida, where bizarre news is the norm, so it's easier for me. Here's an example of something going on right now: a man and woman had a brief fling and produced a child. They planned to share custody of their son and signed a parenting plan in which one of the conditions they agreed to was that the son would be circumcised and the father would pay for it. This agreement was incorporated into a court order and then the mom changed her mind, she didn't want her son circumcised after all. Four years of litigation ensued, the case moved from State to Federal Court and the father ultimately prevailed. So, what did the mom do? She fled the state with the child, but only after seeking assistance from radical activists called "intactivists" who reject circumcision as barbaric and who staged protests on her behalf. (They also threatened the doctors. I told you they were radical, didn't I?)

While I don't have an opinion on this particular subject, I think I've proved my point, that the news is a great way to start the creative juices flowing. Just don't forget to change the names and situations in order to fictionalize your story. And remember that conflict can be anything, it can be huge: a war between nations, a hostile takeover of a corporation, the Avengers taking down the bad guys. Or it can be intangible: a clash of ideas, a phobia, or the agony of choosing between two lovers. Make your characters sweat it out! They may hate you for it, but your readers will love you. Now that you're out of excuses, sit down and start writing! 

(Or you can stand if you want to, that works too.)

The Author

About Barbara Venkataraman

Award-winning author, Barbara Venkataraman is an attorney and mediator specializing in family law and debt collection.

She is the author of Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person; The Fight for Magicallus, a children’s fantasy; a humorous short story entitled If You’d Just Listened to Me in the First Place; and two books of humorous essays: I’m Not Talking about You, Of Course and A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities, which are part of the Quirky Essays for Quirky People series. Both books of humorous essays won the “Indie Book of the Day” award.

Her latest works are Death by Didgeridoo, first in the Jamie Quinn series; The Case of the Killer Divorce, the second Jamie Quinn mystery; and, just out, Peril in the Park, the latest in the popular Jamie Quinn series. Coming soon, Engaged in Danger — the next Jamie Quinn mystery!

Find her on the web at

The Giveaway

Barbara will award the three-book Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection (e-book or audio, winner's choice) 
to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
(a Jane Reads giveaway)

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