Portrait of Jennie. It’s a Wonderful Life. Forever.

I must confess. I am a woman on a mission, and that mission is to convince cozy mystery readers to watch a new murder mystery, Forever, that recently premiered on the ABC network. Dr. Henry Morgan is the Medical Examiner for the NYPD, still grieving the loss of Abigail, his one true love. Jo Martinez is the detective he assists, and often annoys. She is also grieving the more recent loss of her husband. There are wonderful secondary characters such as Lucas, who assists Henry in the morgue, obviously wants to be just like him someday, and is a kind of modern day Watson to Henry’s Holmes. Abe is Henry’s closest living relative, an older gentleman who owns an antique shop filled with fascinating curios. There are dreamy flashbacks to past times that are lovely and romantic. So far, so good, for most cozy readers, so why (you may ask) do I feel that you may not give this fascinating mystery a chance? Because it falls into a category that most of my genteel readers have said they don’t care for – fantasy/supernatural.

My mission is to share one vital fact with you: Forever is not supernatural. At least, not in the monsters/zombies/graphic novel sense of the word. It is certainly not written to appeal only to teens, the targeted demographic for the current craze. Instead, Forever is an intelligent, beautifully filmed, moving and thoughtful show that is very much like the lovely and beloved films Portrait of Jennie and It’s a Wonderful Life. Yes, these films fall into the Fantasy category, but the supernatural element is not the central idea or the defining arc of their stories. Each of these films were about the characters, their journeys of discovery and the wisdom they gained, the people they loved, the obstacles they overcame. These beloved movies explored themes of love, faith, and hope, just as Forever does.

The cinematic beauty of Forever is another reason I’ve fallen for this show. Much of the charm and beauty of Portrait of Jennie was created through beautiful photography and soaring music, as much a part of the story as the moving and memorable performances by Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten. In a similar way, Forever’s cinematography is often stunning, scenes are captured in a way that adds to the poignancy or shock of the moment, and this elegantly compliments the story that is being told by actors Ioan Gruffudd (as Henry) and Alana De La Garza (as Jo). There are also opening and closing voiceovers reminiscent of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone, introducing or wrapping the story in words that are warm or wise, encouraging or cautionary. There are suspenseful moments and surprising twists that must certainly have been inspired by Hitchcock; the pace, the timing, the music or the frightening silence bring to mind the best of the Master of Suspense, and I am happy to say, these qualities have been skillfully applied in every episode to date of this intriguing new series.

And, as if those reasons to watch were not enough, the end of every episode makes me look forward to the next one. I’m not going to reveal any spoilers. Let’s just say that the closing commentary and scenes will always leave you moved, happy, sometimes tearful, and forever fascinated by this exceptional new show.

Ready to give it a chance? Watch online now at the ABC site, or stream episodes on Amazon. Begin with the Pilot episode, give it a few minutes to get past the yukky stuff (Henry is a coroner, after all), and I believe that you, like me, will quickly become a fan, Forever.

Please visit my Forever fan page for more information on this fascinating show.

Quilting Cousins

Such a lovely quilt! I enjoy sewing but quilting is one thing I have yet to attempt. My hobbies run along the lines of making doll clothes from antique patterns to making baby dolls clothes that are strictly for the enjoyment of the tots to which I give them. Oh, and reading and writing cozy mysteries.

Crafting Mysteries & Suspense

Recently, a stunning quilt top was handed off – from cousin Linda (in Prineville, OR) to cousin Gary (who played delivery guy) to cousin (me). Fingers fumbling, I opened the box, ready for a first glimpse. I unfolded it and caught my breath. Gorgeous! And what a treat to partner with Linda Gholson, quilter extraordinaire, in this part of my novel journey with Abingdon Press.

Tail in the Rail Quilt “Tail in the Rail” Quilt

My upcoming “Quilts of Love” mystery, A Stitch in Crime, features Thea James stitching on this very quilt in her spare time. (Not that she has much of it. Too busy trying to figure out whodunit.)

I’ve named the quilt “Tail in the Rail” because the pattern consists of Fence Rail blocks, floral sashing, and Aunt Elena’s Nine Patch variation of a kitty-cat to represent Betty, the feisty calico in the story. It’s my own design, along with…

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Serling on the Shelf: Rescuing Rod

Exciting News for Twilight Zone Fans!

Shadow & Substance

I have on my shelves a dog-eared paperback edition of Rod Serling’s 1967 book “The Season To Be Wary.” It sits near similarly worn copies of several other books that he either wrote or edited. I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you one bit, but WHY I have them might.

Serling Promo2

It’s not because I love old books (though I do). It’s because when I first began acquiring copies of Serling’s volumes, they were out of print.

You don’t have to be an obsessive fan like me to be struck by that fact. One of the most famous writers of the 20th century, and his books were less accessible than James Patterson’s? As Serling might say, file that under “L” for “literary crime.”

Enter Rod Serling Books.


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REVIEW: Death of a Six-Foot Teddy Bear

Sharon Dunn

Death of a Six-Foot Teddy Bear by Sharon Dunn gets five stars from this reviewer for two aspects of a genuinely good novel:  a solid mystery in the classic tradition, and humorous elements that really are laugh out loud funny.  Clues and red herrings are skillfully placed, providing a fun challenge to those genteel readers who enjoy piecing together the puzzle, and I am happy to say that this book does not follow a typical “ACME Mystery Writing Formula” that is easily spotted and used by far too many cozy writers today.

Best of all, there really is a six-foot teddy bear in the book!  Thus, not long into the story, the genteel reader begins to encounter such delightfully zany sentences as The bear nodded at her, crossed his legs, and picked up a newspaper.  The characters are people we would love to spend time with, inside the book and out.  The Bargain Hunters Network, as they call themselves, are four genuinely nice ladies with real quirks and endearing traits that may remind you of someone you’ve known in the past, or the kind of friends you have today.

There are a couple of smaller storylines on the side, but these do not distract from the mystery at all.  Kindra, youngest of the bargain hunting gal pals, has an interesting romance with a fascinating character, and the conclusion of this part of the book provides for some interesting insight into what real love is, or at least what it should be.  Spunky senior citizen Arleta does some soul searching and comes to a surprising, but satisfying, conclusion on the direction her life has taken.  Ginger, the real heroine of the bargain hunter novels, has many hilarious misadventures, a few heartbreaking ones, and finally discovers that her priorities may need some slight readjustments.  These sidelines are brief but enjoyable, and add to the cozy friendship feeling of the novel.

Sharon Dunn has written two other novels in the Bargain Hunters Mystery Series, and this reviewer hopes to read many more.  Her most recent series is the Ruby Taylor Mystery Series.


Agatha Christie, Rejected????

This simply fascinating video series on the Youtube features the grandson of Everyone’s Favorite Writer discussing her life, her books, her inspirations and more. Here he shares a wee bit about the creation of Hercule Poirot. The most interesting part of the video, IMHO, is the fact that even Agatha received rejections! Unbelievable! And we also learn, genteel readers, that rejection letters have not changed a bit in nearly one hundred years.

Those marvelous mystery book covers!

body in libr
“BLIMEY! Wot’s that?!?!”

One hobby (or perhaps bad habit?) I have never outgrown is collecting old, out-of-print books, mostly paperbacks, because they tend to be the ones I can afford.  A dime for a great used book?  Count me in!  And now I have stumbled upon something that, at first, I believed would help me lose this obsession – but instead, alas, it has only added to my addiction.  The “something” is Pinterest, where I previously only surfed the pages of others, but have now jumped into the fray and begun posting my own collection of lovely paperback book covers.  My page is titled Marvelous Mystery Book Covers.  It features mainly vintage books or out-of-print Agatha Christies, which are my favorite used books to find.  I have stacks and stacks of them.  And yes, I have read them all at least once!  See even more book covers, and other items of interest such as pictures of my cats, on my new Instagram: donna.reads.and.writes


Memories and Inspiration

Ms T's sf

The homes and places of Sparrow Falls often play an important part in the mystery.  While writing the first novel, A Distant Murder, and developing my characters and settings, my mind kept returning to people and places from my childhood.  The description of Ms. Tilda’s Victorian cottage in chapter five very closely resembles our next-door-neighbor’s house, a sweet (yet rather snoopy!) little old lady whose tiny cottage overflowed with a gracious sort of beauty from another era:

(The house) was a quaint, bright, fairytale cottage and neat as a pin. There were crocheted doilies on the furniture and roses on the teacups.  Knick knacks were placed everywhere and in random fashion; countless tiny figurines of playful animals or sweet-tempered children, curious souvenirs from places long forgotten, photographs in swirling brass frames, and flowers.  In vases, in clay pots, in chipped cups or mismatched glasses, in anything that could still hold water, Tilda MacArdan placed a flower.

Please click on the Homes of Sparrow Falls tab above to see more places from the fictional small town.

REVIEW: Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie

sparklingSparkling Cyanide (aka Remembered Death) by Agatha Christie

*spoiler free guarantee*

Six people gather at a swanky 40’s era nightclub to celebrate the birthday of the title character, the beautiful but self-absorbed Rosemary Barton, who gracefully lifts her champagne glass for a birthday toast at midnight and drops dead on the expensive silk tablecloth the very next minute.

This novel was originally the Hercule Poirot short story Yellow Iris, with similar settings and characters but a completely different ending. Poirot doesn’t appear in the novel. I have a particular fondness for both versions of the story, and the novel is notable in that it presents a different form of storytelling than the typical mystery. In Part One, the six characters who were present when Rosemary died each tell their story of what happened that fateful night and the months preceding it. In this way the genteel reader is given insight into the lives and minds of the suspects and may, perhaps, begin piecing together the jigsaw puzzle toward the eventual conclusion of the mystery. The remaining two parts of the novel revert to the usual straightforward style of a murder mystery, telling us “what happens next” and keeping us turning pages until the satisfactory conclusion is reached, in deft Agatha Christie style.

Please visit my Pinterest page, Marvelous Mystery Book Covers, for more mystery-type things!