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JOANNA CARL BLOGS ABOUT AGATHA CHRISTIE

Today's guest blogger is mystery author JoAnna Carl, who also writes as Eve K. Sandstrom. JoAnn has chosen the book WHY DIDN'T THEY ASK EVANS? as her topic.

 


 

     JoAnna Carl and Eve K. Sandstrom both write mystery novels which rely on regional settings for atmosphere, background and clues.

 

     JoAnna writes about the shores of Lake Michigan and has been reviewed in Michigan newspapers as a “regional writer.”

 

     Eve writes about Southwest Oklahoma and once won an award for the best book of the year with an Oklahoma setting.

 

     It’s no particular secret that Eve and JoAnna occupy the same body.

 

     Talk about your split personalities!

 

     But how did this happen?

 

     Eve K. Sandstrom is an Oklahoman to the teeth: she was born there, as were five previous generations of her mother’s family. Both her grandfathers and her father were in the oil business, once the backbone of Oklahoma’s economy. One grandmother was born in the Choctaw Nation, and Eve is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Eve and seven other members of her immediate family are graduates of the University of Oklahoma. Eve even knows the second verse of “Boomer Sooner.”

 

     Eve wrote two mystery series: the “Down Home” books, set on a ranch in Southwest Oklahoma, and the Nell Matthews mysteries, semi-hard-boiled books laid in a mid-size city on the Southern Plains.

 

     But Eve married a great guy whose family owned a cottage on the east coast of Lake Michigan, not far from the Michigantowns of Fennville, Saugatuck, and Douglas. Every summer for more than forty years she, her husband and various combinations of children and grandchildren have trekked to the community of Pier Cove for vacations that lasted from two weeks to three months.

 

     The area features gorgeous beaches, lush orchards, thick woods, and beautiful Victorian houses. Eve grew to love it. So when her editor asked her to come up with a new mystery series, Eve set it in a West Michigan resort town, scrambling up Saugatuck, Douglas, South Haven, Holland, Manistee, Ludington and Muskegon with her own ideas of what a resort ought to be to create Warner Pier.

 

     As further background, she plunked her heroine into a business which produces and sells luscious, luxurious, European-style bonbons, truffles and molded chocolates. Most small towns couldn’t support a business like this, but the resorts of West Michigan – with their wealthy “summer people” and tourists – can. The “Chocoholic Mysteries” were on their way.

 

     Eve’s editor requested that she use a pen name for the new series, and Eve picked the middle names of her three children, Betsy Jo, Ruth Anna, and John Carl. “JoAnna Carl” was born.

 

     So that’s how JoAnna/Eve became a regional author in two widely separated regions.

 

     JoAnna/Eve earned a degree in journalism at the University of Oklahoma Lawton, Oklahoma. She took an early retirement to write fiction full-time. and also studied with Carolyn G. Hart and Jack Bickham in the OU Creative Writing Program. She spent more than twenty-five years in the newspaper business, working as a reporter, editor, and columnist at The Lawton Constitution.

 

     She and her husband, David F. Sandstrom, have three grandchildren, whom they love introducing to the lore of their two homes – Oklahoma and Michigan.

 


 

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[ Edited ]

 

The Chocolate Cat Caper (Chocoholic Series #1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE CHOCOHOLIC MYSTERIES BY JOANNA CARL

All the Chocoholic Mysteries feature Lee McKinney, a Texas beauty queen transplanted to a Michigan resort, where she is business manager for TenHuis Chocolade, a business owned by her aunt, Nettie TenHuis.

Nearly six feet tall and a half-Dutch natural blonde, Lee is often under-estimated because she tends to get her “tang toungled” when she’s nervous. She’s a direct descendant of Mrs. Malaprop.

In addition to a mystery, the books feature a behind-the-scenes look at the business and art of making fine, European-style bonbons, truffles and molded chocolates.

The setting of the Chocoholic books is the fictional resort town of Warner Pier, Michigan. Set on the shore of Lake Michigan, Warner Pier's quaint Victorian atmosphere and gorgeous beaches draw thousands of tourists and summer visitors each year. Many of the visitors are wealthy. Many come from families who have owned summer homes in the area for a hundred years. New housing developments have attracted professionals who commute to Holland or Grand Rapids. The 2,500 "locals" are employed in tourism or in growing peaches, apples, grapes, and other fruit – a business still important to Warner County, even as the area loses its original rural character.

 

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Re: JOANNA CARL BLOGS ABOUT AGATHA CHRISTIE

This is from JoAnna's website: http://www.joannacarl.com/index.php

 

Let's get one thing straight: The mystery novel is the highest form of literature. At least it is for me. Nearly all the big moments in my literary life seem to have hinged on mysteries.

When I was seven and realized I could read a "real" book – one without pictures on every page – that book was The Secret of Larkspur Lane, by Carolyn Keene, featuring the immortal Nancy Drew.

When I was in my twenties and wanted to write a novel that showed psychological understanding, I happened to read Death and the Joyful Woman, by Ellis Peters. The proverbial light bulb went on. "Wow!" I thought. "It's possible to write a book that's fun to read and still has psychological understanding."

When I was thirty-five I wanted to write something that was firmly grounded in my own culture, and I discovered that Tony Hillerman had laid out a map that any writer would be proud to follow, and he did it in the form of the mystery novel.

This web page, I hope, will introduce new readers to the books of JoAnna Carl and Eve K. Sandstrom and will give veteran readers of their books a peek at the books' background.

The next book in the series, The Chocolate Pirate Plot, will be published in October 2010.
In this one, costumed pirates board pleasure boats cruising on Lake Michigan. It's been 
a lot of fun to think up crazy events to challenge Lee and Joe. But never fear! They figure it all out.

The Chocolate Cupid Caper, 2009’s hardback, will come out in a paperback edition about that time. Plus, a trade paperback containing the fourth and fifth Chocoholic books, The Chocolate Puppy Puzzle and The Chocolate Mouse Trap, was published in March 2010. This book is titled .Chocolate to Die for.

In addition, I'm working on the next book in the series – tentatively called The Chocolate Castle Case. Everyone seems to love chocolate!

My grandmother, who was highly religious, became a big fan of “Gunsmoke.” When I asked her why, she said, “It always has a good moral.”

That’s how I feel about mysteries. You can count on them to end right. All the questions raised in the story are answered. The good are rewarded, the bad punished. The story has a beginning, a middle and an end – and it’s not ashamed of it. Mysteries engage the intellect, but still allow us to escape our daily troubles and tribulations.

Add a little chocolate and you’ve got literary heaven.

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        Eve K. Sandstrom is the author of two mystery series, the "Down Home" books and a series which uses the newspaper business as a background. Some of these books are out of print, but they are often available on-line or, in some cases, from the author.

The Nell Matthews Mysteries

These books feature Nell Matthews, a reporter for a newspaper in Grantham, a fictional city of around 500,000. Nell becomes involved romantically with policeman Mike Svenson and the relationship causes both of them a lot of trouble. Mike has left a law-enforcement career begun in Chicago to join the police force in his home town. (Warning: In contrast to the "Down Home" books, these mysteries contain fairly explicit sex.)

The Smoking Gun
        A Nell Matthews Mystery 
Signet Mystery, March 2000
Thorndike Large Print Edition - ISBN: 0-7862-2977-2

The Homicide Report 
        A Nell Matthews Mystery 
Onyx Mystery, September 1998

The Violence Beat 
        A Nell Matthews Mystery 
Onyx Mystery, November 1997

The Sam and Nicky Titus "Down Home" Mysteries

The "Down Home" books feature photographer Nicky Titus, who as the daughter of a U.S. Army general has lived all over the world. She marries a career Army CID officer, Sam Titus, thinking her life will continue that pattern. Instead, a family crisis forces Sam to return to his family's ranch in Southwest Oklahoma. Nicky has to adjust to life in a small - very small - town, and Sam has to split his career between ranching and law enforcement.

The Down Home Heifer Heist 
        A Sam and Nicky Titus Mystery

A Scribner Crime Novel, 1993 
Paperback Reprint - Worldwide Library 
A Mystery Guild Selection 
        Winner of the Oklahoma Book Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book,
        an organization associated with the Oklahoma Department of Libraries

The Devil Down Home 
        A Sam and Nicky Titus Mystery

A Scribner Crime Novel, 1991 
Paperback Reprint - Worldwide Library 
A Mystery Guild Selection

Death Down Home 
        A Sam and Nicky Titus Mystery

A Scribner Crime Novel, 1990 
Paperback Reprint - Worldwide Library 
A Mystery Guild Selection

The Firing Line 
        Written under the pseudonym Elizabeth Storm

Harlequin Intrigue, July 1988

SHORT STORIES

"The People's Way" By Eve K. Sandstrom 
        Love & Death Anthology 
Berkley Prime Crime, 2001 ISBN: 0-425-17805-6 
Paperback Reprint - Berkley Prime Crime 
Mystery Guild Selection

"Bugged" By Eve K. Sandstrom 
        Malice Domestic 5
        An Anthology of Original Traditional Mystery Stories 
Pocket Books, May 1996 ISBN: 0-671-89632-6 
        Nominated for both Agatha and Anthony awards for 
        Best Mystery Short Story of 1996

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WHY DIDN’T THEY ASK EVANS?

 

 

Link: Why Didn't They Ask Evans?

 

 

 

My Favorite Christie

 

By JoAnna Carl

 

 

This book has also been published under the title The Boomerang Clue, and it does not feature any of Christie’s series detectives. No Miss Marple, no Hercule Poirot, not even Tommy and Tuppence.

 

I’d never analyzed just why I love Why Didn’t They Ask Evans until I volunteered to blog about it, but rereading it gave me three reasons, all involving the word “pure.”

 

First, it’s an exercise in pure deduction.

 

Second, it’s a pure example of the amateur detective genre.

 

Third, the first two reasons combine to make it a purely satisfying read.

 

The plot may be summarized readily. Bobby Jones, the son of a Welsh vicar, finds a hiker who has fallen over a cliff and is near death. The hiker’s dying words are, “Why didn’t they ask Evans?” From this nonsensical fragment, plus a mysterious photograph, Bobby and his pal,

Lady Frankie Derwent, figure out that a crime has occurred, and they solve it.

 

The police are never involved because the hiker’s death is believed to be an accident, and until the final chapter Bobby and Frankie are unable to produce evidence that a crime has even occurred.

 

The puzzle is well up to Agatha Christie’s standard. When the mysterious Evans is finally found, I dare the reader not to say, “Why didn’t I see that coming? It’s completely logical.”

I love the characters as well.

 

The casual and slap-dash Bobby continually bumps heads with his serious father, and their problems echo those of every father and son. “Yet,” Christie writes, “they were both extremely fond of one another.”

 

Frankie is an absolute hoot, exploiting her title and her reputation as a “bright young thing” to get information from everybody from the local bobby to a sinister psychiatrist. It’s plain to the reader that she’s involved in the mystery because she’s pursuing Bobby, but Bobby is completely impervious to her pursuit.

 

The hapless Badger, Bobby’s friend and business partner, is the perfect foil for the lively young sleuths, and – I’m delighted to report – saves the day in the end.

 

I love these people! If I reread the book a couple of times a year, it’s because I want to pay them a visit.

 

Plus, the plot is perfect. Every deduction is logical, every motivation clear.

 

It even gives an accurate picture of its time. Published in 1933, at the depth of the Great Depression, Bobby’s desperate effort to find a job and Frankie’s life among the idle rich are well pictured.

 

This is not to say that the book is particularly true to life, and that’s another thing I like about it. It’s not a heavy psychological study or an unflinching look at violent crime. I don’t always want to read heavy psychological studies or unflinching looks at violence.

 

No, sometimes I want to read a light-hearted puzzle with likeable characters and a satisfying solution.

 

And if that’s what you’re looking for, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans is pure delight.

 

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Why Didn't They Ask Evans? 

 

(Also known as THE BOOMERANG CLUE)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

During a round of golf, Bobby finds a man at the bottom of a small cliff near the seventeenth hole. Why didn't they ask Evans? are the dying man's enigmatic last words, and Bobby, of course, soon discovers that the man's death was no accident.

 

 

 

Agatha Christie's Marple - Series 4 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/marple/askevans.html

 

 

 

(Note: The plot of this version differs from the book.)

 

Bobby Attfield finds a man near death sprawled out on a cliff. His final, enigmatic words — "Why didn't they ask Evans?" On a whim, Bobby and his friend, socialite Frankie Derwent, decide to investigate. The amateur sleuths, along with Miss Marple, uncover several enticing clues — a hotel room key, a pipe and a map with the Savage Castle circled. Getting into the castle under false pretenses, the trio meets a cadre of shadowy characters — the widow of loathed businessman Jack Savage, his two teenage children, a handsome piano teacher, a psychiatrist and his delicate wife. Before long, Bobby and Frankie's playful inquiry turns even more deadly. Amid a backdrop of poisonous snakes and exotic but lethal orchids, will the three decipher the dead man's final words before they are exposed?

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Re: JOANNA CARL BLOGS ABOUT AGATHA CHRISTIE

I don't remember if I listed this among my favorite Christie novels, but Lady Frances "Frankie" Derwent is one of my favorite Christie heroines. She exemplifies Christie's spunky, fearless and independent female characters. It's a great read!

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Re: JOANNA CARL BLOGS ABOUT AGATHA CHRISTIE

Becke, I have read the book and found it thought provoking as I couldn't guess who did murder the hiker. And it was the last chapter where you found out who did it. Typical Agatha Christie! And it never occured to me that none of the major characters she uses was in that book. 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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Re: JOANNA CARL BLOGS ABOUT AGATHA CHRISTIE

I absolutly love Ms. Carl's books.:smileyvery-happy:

 

What a great article pointing out a treasure among a Christie I've never read before. Thank you.

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Re: JOANNA CARL BLOGS ABOUT AGATHA CHRISTIE

I didn't realize until after I'd read JoAnna's post that my copy is The Boomerang Clue. I must have bought it when I lived in England. I'll have to buy one now that has an American cover!

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Re: JOANNA CARL BLOGS ABOUT AGATHA CHRISTIE

Welcome, Joanna, and thanks for joining us!  That chohoholic series sounds like a lot of fun!  How did you come to know so much about the chocolates business?  Research must be delicious!

 

Thanks for your review of Why Didn't They Ask Evans?  I reread this one within the past year or so (when they showed the new version, altering it to include Miss Marple), and it is really a great one, although, like Becke, it didn't end up on my top twenty (but it was one of the ones I considered).  I just love Christie's 'bright young things'; Bundle Brent and Tuppence are among my favorite Christie characters, and Frankie fits right in.

 

Becke, I may be wrong, but I think that The Boomerang Clue is the American title.  I also have it with that title - a Dell, if I remember correctly, although not with the same cover that you showed.

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dulcinea3 wrote:

Welcome, Joanna, and thanks for joining us!  That chohoholic series sounds like a lot of fun!  How did you come to know so much about the chocolates business?  Research must be delicious!

 

Thanks for your review of Why Didn't They Ask Evans?  I reread this one within the past year or so (when they showed the new version, altering it to include Miss Marple), and it is really a great one, although, like Becke, it didn't end up on my top twenty (but it was one of the ones I considered).  I just love Christie's 'bright young things'; Bundle Brent and Tuppence are among my favorite Christie characters, and Frankie fits right in.

 

Becke, I may be wrong, but I think that The Boomerang Clue is the American title.  I also have it with that title - a Dell, if I remember correctly, although not with the same cover that you showed.


Do I have it backwards? Maybe both titles are available here now. So confusing!

 

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Re: JOANNA CARL BLOGS ABOUT AGATHA CHRISTIE

From what I've noticed, I think that they are generally releasing them with the original British titles now.  I suppose with globalization, there's no longer any point to having 'British publishers' and 'American publishers' using different titles.

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Re: JOANNA CARL BLOGS ABOUT AGATHA CHRISTIE

becke_davis, I have seen Joanna's books in my library but have not have the chance to read any. They do look interesting.

 

Welcome, Joanna, I am glad that you could be with us. Agatha Christie is the first woman I knew that wrote mystery novels. At least I think she was.

 

ReadingPatti