Monthly Archives: September 2014

Breakfast Conversation with Aunty Lee by Ovidia Yu

Deadly SpecialCan you describe a typical day in your life for us, Mrs Lee?
Typically nobody calls me Mrs Lee. My friends call me Rosie and at my shop, Aunty Lee’s Delights [], people call me Aunty Lee. You know, like on the bottles of Aunty Lee’s Amazing Achar and Aunty Lee’s Shiok Sambal. My picture is on the bottles, you know!

So Aunty Lee, let’s start with breakfast?
At home or eating out? If you know my Singapore ( you know how easy it is to eat out. Nina tries to make me eat oatmeal with fruits. But if there are newly ripe mangoes or papayas or bananas it is not so bad. Nowadays we don’t get so many fruits. My late husband, ML, always got so many fruits from our garden. I used to laugh at him for talking to the trees, ‘if you don’t give fruit I will chop you down’. But sure enough the trees always had so much fruit. And now I’m the one people laugh at, for talking to his pictures. But then I always get my answers, like my dear ML always got his mangoes, so who knows?

So are mangoes your favourite fruits?
Oh, I love mangoes. But my favourite fruits, very hard to find nowadays are the wild pulasans. These are like rambutans, only sweeter and juicier and the flesh does not stick to the seeds. And then there is durian, that people love and hate. One of my friends told me, if you have children who want to marry foreigners, ask them as a test to eat durian for you. If they eat, that shows either they have been in Singapore long enough to know what they are doing or they really love your child very much.

I see…so, about your typical breakfast?
Typically I like to go to the kopitiam or local coffee shop for the Kaya Toast Set. I don’t like it so much but it is unofficially Singapore’s national breakfast set meal. Kaya toast is toasted bread with butter and kaya, a jam made from eggs, sugar, coconut milk and pandan.

Why don’t you like it? Why do you eat it if you dislike it?
Because my homemade kaya is much better! The kopitiam ones are too sweet or not enough pandan—but I have to keep eating theirs to make sure mine is still better. And the set comes with half-boiled eggs that I eat with soy sauce and pepper and hot tea, coffee or Milo.

The best kaya toast is brown and crunchy with lines on it from the charcoal grill, I still remember them from the old-school coffee shops in Katong where I grew up. A few of them are still there, the kind with ceiling fans, marble-top tables and wooden chairs like they were back in the 1950s. Nowadays you can also get it in modern shops. Like now everywhere you can find soy pudding. It is not the same as the old fashioned tau huay but it is better than nothing I suppose.

Tau Huay or soy pudding is also a breakfast dish?
Oh yes, one of the best! But I’m talking about traditional Soya Bean Curd, dou hua in Mandarin and tau huay in Hokkien,which is not easy to make—even for me. Tau huay should be very silky with a warm heavy slipperiness. Most people eat it with added sugar syrup but I prefer it topped with a little soy milk. People say that eating tau huay daily will give you a smooth, white complexion. I must say that even today people compliment me on my complexion so maybe there is something in that! Oh and the best way to eat it is by dunking a you tiao (crispy deep fried dough fritter) in it. The light salty crispiness provides the perfect contrast.

Some of my favourite memories are of eating you tiao with my late husband. ML would order hot Oolong tea and we would dip our dough sticks in bowls of piping hot peppery Bak Kut Teh or ‘meat bone tea’. He liked his hot peppery soup with a bit of sweetness to it and preferred Bak Kut Teh made with easy to eat prime ribs. I like a really spicy broth made with braised pig knuckles, the meat tender and springy with a slightly translucent, gelatinous texture. It is best eaten with white rice and thin sliced red chilli peppers in soy sauce on a lazy Sunday morning. But it is not a dish to be eaten alone. It is a good thing that Commissioner Raja also likes Bak Kut Teh!

You can read more about Aunty Lee in Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials, the second book in the “Singaporean” mystery series, published by HarperCollins. The first book in the series is Aunty Lee’s Delights.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on October 3 for the chance to win a copy of AUNTY LEE’S DEADLY SPECIALS. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

About the author
Since dropping out of medical school, Ovidia Yu has been a copywriter and one of Singapore’s most popular playwrights (thirty plays and slightly fewer awards) with short stories, novellas and a children’s fiction published in Singapore, Malaysia and India. Aunty Lee’s Delights, her first mystery featuring busybody widow Rosie ‘Aunty’ Lee, was published to good reviews in America last year and the next book, Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials will be available from 30th September 2014.

Visit Ovidia on Facebook or on Twitter

A Day in the Life of Jake Martelli by Ali Brandon

Literally MurderNice to meet you, too, Lance. The name’s Jake Martelli. Don’t even think about calling me Jacqueline, or even Jackie. Only my mother is allowed to do that. Luckily, Ma lives in Fort Lauderdale, and since it’s a good three-hour flight from where I live in Brooklyn, I don’t have to put up with hearing that too often.

Right, scotch and soda…and some of those little pretzels, if you have them.

Yeah, I actually have a pretty nice place there. I’ve got the garden apartment in a three-story brownstone, with dirt-cheap rent and pretty much a lifetime lease. There’s a bookstore on the first two floors, which is pretty nice. My best friend, Darla Pettistone, owns the shop…the whole building, as a matter of fact. Or maybe I should say, her and her crazy black cat named Hamlet. But that’s another story.

So, what’s a good-lookin’ broad like me doing alone in an Atlantic City dive bar on a Tuesday night? Not very original, are you, kid? Oh, and don’t even think about trying to put the moves on me. You’re, what, thirty? Well, I’m old enough to be your mother. But pour me another scotch and soda, and I’ll tell you why I’m here.

You remember that couple at the end of the bar awhile back? The fat bald guy in the pink shirt two sizes too small for him, and the skinny blonde with too much makeup? Well, Baldy’s married, but not to Blondie. She’s his “administrative assistant” down at the machine shop where he’s a manager. Turns out Blondie’s been administering to him, all right…and Baldy’s missus got suspicious, so she hired me to get the lowdown.

Yeah, you got it in one. I’m a private detective, just like the character in that paperback novel I see you’ve got stashed behind the cash register. Don’t worry, kid, I’ve got your number. Keep the scotch and sodas coming, and I promise I won’t tell anyone you’re a mystery fan.

Nah, tracking down these two geniuses was kid’s play. Blondie has a big mouth. All it took was going out to lunch the same place she and her pals go, and I found out all about her out-of-town “date” tonight and the “sick day” she plans to take tomorrow. So I show up here and, voila. I watched the two of them get all cozy here in the bar for awhile, and then I followed them back to their room at the motel next door.

Word to the wise, Lance…always close your curtains all the way. Oh, and skip doing a Chippendales striptease act if your belly hangs over your belt. I could go for a quart of brain bleach right about now, if you know what I mean. Anyhow, see this innocent looking smartphone? All the incriminating evidence that will help wifey get a nice little alimony settlement when she divorces the rat is right in here.

So, you think my life is more exciting than tending bar? Eh, sometimes it is. Maybe someday I’ll tell you about my little trip down to Florida last month with my friend, Darla, and her cat. Glamorous? Huh, not much. You try sitting in a parked car for hours at a time waiting for some cheating wife to show up at her boyfriend’s place, and telling yourself you don’t have to pee, and see how glamorous you feel.

Well, Lance, it’s been nice chatting with you, but time to go. I’m going to catch a few winks in that fleabag motel next door and then head out bright and early in the morning for home. But, don’t worry, there are plenty of cheated-on spouses out there just itching to hire a private investigator. I’m sure I’ll be back here again sometime soon tracking down another Baldy and Blondie.

Oh, and maybe next time we have a drink together, we’ll forget that whole “old enough to be your mother” thing and see what happens.

You can read more about Jake in Literally Murder, the 4th book in the “Black Cat Bookshop” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series is Double Booked for Death.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on October 2 for the chance to win a copy of LITERALLY MURDER. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only.

About the author
Ali Brandon is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from Berkley Prime AliBCrime. Writing under her real name, Diane A.S. Stuckart, she penned the popular Leonardo da Vinci historical mystery series, which has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as a Florida Book Award. Additionally, she is the author of five critically-reviewed historical romances which will soon be re-released as ebooks. A native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Diane a/k/a Ali now lives in South Florida. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Cat Writers Association.

Visit her at or on Facebook


Weekly Roundup* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Had a wonderful weekend socializing with the Beta Babes. A group of women met for the first time in and we laughed and had fun the whole weekend sightseeing and doing crafts. The first night we met some of the local authors, one of which I’ve read her books and “met” on another author’s blog and it was good to see/meet her. Again, the rest of the weekend was pure fun with wild laughs and a trip to Jack in the Box. A good time was had by all and I hope we get to do it again.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This week on dru’s book musings

September 29: Jake Martelli from Literally Murder by Ali Brandon
September 30: Aunt Lee from Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials by Ovidia Yu
October 1: Zoe Donovan from Haunted Hamlet by Kathi Daley
October 2: Vera Hart from Stirring the Plot by Daryl Wood Gerber
October 3: Helen Binney from A Denial of Death by Gin Jones
October 4: Lauren Atwill from No Broken Hearts by Sheila York

Last week on dru’s book musings

Recent contest winners

  • The Counterfeit Lady by Kate Parker – Renee W.
  • The Skeleton Takes a Bow by Leigh Perry – Mare F.
  • Hard Return by J. Carson Black – Linda H.
  • Lost Legacy by Annette Dashofy – Amy G.
  • Wouldn’t It Be Deadly by D.E. Ireland – Carol B.
  • Wouldn’t It Be Deadly by D.E. Ireland – Judy T.

Follow dru’s book musing on Facebook for posting about discounted books, giveaways and some of my reading musings.

Another Day in the Life of Helen Evans by Susan McBride

Not A Chance In HelenI am never so happy to live in tiny River Bend, Illinois, as in the mornings. After I’ve fed Amber his breakfast—usually something fishy from a can that makes the whole house smell like a Florida beach at Red Tide—I lace up my Tretorns and head out for a walk.

The town sits in a valley between the bluffs, and there’s no prettier moment than post-dawn when the sun begins to rise. It winks between the trees above while the birds twitter their good mornings. Houses still look sleepy with shades drawn and porch lights on, though dogs bark greetings from behind picket fences.

It’s just a mile to the river, and I try not to get distracted by what’s in the windows of the shops downtown. But sometimes I can’t resist a peek into Agnes March’s antiques store or Hilary Wiggins’s stationery shop. Although it’s easy enough to step quickly past the sheriff’s office, which lies in between, since Frank Biddle and I don’t exactly see eye to eye.

So many things can happen during my walk, moments that catch my breath. In the spring, it’s the sight of flowers blooming, as though they went from buds to blossoms overnight. In the fall, it’s the crunch of the leaves underfoot and the gorgeous colors of the foliage painted across the bluff sides.

But the other morning when I decided to stroll up Harbor Drive, my breath caught in another way entirely. I watched Eleanora Duncan’s cat chase a butterfly into the street and Eleanora come clucking after her…just as a sedan roared its engine and barreled toward them both. If I hadn’t rushed into the road to pull Eleanora aside, she would have been flattened. When Eleanora had regained her wits, she looked at me with frightened eyes and confessed, “Helen, I think someone is trying to kill me.”

I didn’t buy it, not then, despite Eleanora being a very wealthy widow who’d alienated most of River Bend since her husband and son both died the year before. Losing Marvin first to a heart attack had been hard enough. But when Jim had been killed in a car wreck, it had nearly tipped Eleanora over the edge. She’d gone on to blame Jim’s wife, who’d been at the wheel the rainy day the accident had occurred. Eleanora had even gone so far as to instigate a coroner’s inquest, needing to pin the blame on someone. Though Jean had been cleared, Eleanora had never forgiven her daughter-in-law. And Jean wasn’t the only one Eleanora had treated badly since.

Some said it was the hate in her heart that killed her when Eleanora was found dead on her kitchen floor shortly after the near-miss. But when Doc Melville suspected otherwise—and the Jersey County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed Eleanora had been poisoned—all eyes turned to Jean. To say I was shocked is putting it mildly, though it merely angered me to find out that Frank Biddle dragged Jean out of her house early the next morning to grill her about her mother-in-law’s murder. It was just too bad I had to find it out from Clara Foley who was eating breakfast at the diner, across the street from the sheriff’s office, when he pulled up with Jean in his squad car.

“He had someone with him, you see.” Her pale eyes widened, and her voice rattled with excitement. “It was Jean Duncan as it turns out. He hustled her into his office pretty quick-like, which made me wonder if he didn’t haul her down there on official business seeing as how it’s so early in the morning and the expression on his face wasn’t any too friendly.” Clara paused for breath before rushing on. “And Jean, well, she looked like he’d dragged her out of bed and she’d thrown on the first thing she could find. Her blouse was hanging out of her blue jeans, and her hair looked positively wild….”

I had to admit, it didn’t look good for my friend. It was Jean’s pâté that had been poisoned, and she’d taken it over to Eleanora’s house and placed it in the refrigerator herself. Eleanora’s long-time housekeeper, Zelda, had attested to that very fact.

But I knew that Jean didn’t kill her mother-in-law, regardless of how terribly Eleanora had treated her. Jean had been trying to extend an olive branch to Eleanora. She had never intended to send her to her grave.

As usual, Sheriff Biddle paid no attention to common sense. So what else could I do but dig in my heels and prove that Jean didn’t do it. Sometimes all it takes to figure out what’s what around River Bend is a calm head, tight lips, and a pair of good ears. And if there’s one thing I know how to do well after four children, nine grandchildren, and 75 years, it’s how to listen.

You can read more about Helen in Not A Chance in Helen, the third book in the new “River Road” mystery series, published by HarperCollins.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on October 1 for the chance to win a digital copy of NOT A CHANCE IN HELEN or a signed paperback of Mad as Helen. (U.S. only for print), winner’s choice.

About the author
Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling author of Blue Blood and four other award-winning “Debutante Dropout Mysteries” from HarperCollins including The Good Girl’s Guide To Murder, The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, Night Of The Living Deb, and Too Pretty To Die. A sixth title, Say Yes to the Death, will be out in September 2015.

Her River Road Mystery series began with To Helen Back in May and Mad as Helen in July. Not a Chance in Helen is the third of these digital-first books from HarperCollins (the paperback will be available in early November). Susan’s first young adult thriller, Very Bad Things, will be published in hardcover by Delacorte Press on October 14, 2014.

You can find out more about Susan and her books at

A Day in the Life of Miss Emma Cross by Alyssa Maxwell

Murder at Marble HousePsst, over here. Yes, pretend you don’t see me, but come closer, please. I’m trying not to attract the attention of my Vanderbilt aunts, Alice and Alva. They squabble over everything these days, because each is intent on staking her claim as society’s The Mrs. Vanderbilt. Normally I let them wrangle if it makes them happy, except that upon occasion I find myself caught in the middle of their determined and opposing wills. Aunt Alice’s main peeve with me arises from 1) my driving my own carriage and working as a society reporter for a local newspaper, and 2) her not having successfully married me off to a suitable gentleman thus far. Very well, I can contend with that. However, presently, it’s Aunt Alva making unreasonable demands of me, of a nature that requires me to compromise my values and my very integrity.

Or else.

At one point she actually had me backed up against the wall in the Gold Ballroom at Marble House, and I knew full well I would go nowhere until I agreed to do her bidding. No, she didn’t actually say, “Or else,” but the implied sentiment struck like a blunt object between my shoulder blades as I headed toward the Grand Staircase and my cousin’s bedroom upstairs. The matter in question? Aunt Alva wants me to convince her daughter, Consuelo, to marry a man she abhors. He needs her money, and Aunt Alva has decided the family needs a duchess.

Never mind that I’ve managed to elude an arranged marriage for myself until the ripe old age of twenty-one. Never mind that I believe all women should have the right to choose the course of their own future and have the freedom follow their dreams the same as any man. But Consuelo trusts me. She looks up to me. She has always confided in me, and now Aunt Alva wants me to use that influence to persuade an eighteen-year-old girl that I believe this marriage will be for the best.

In other words, I am required to speak bald-faced lies. I believe I mentioned at the outset, dear friends, that I am a journalist, and lately my interests have expanded well beyond my Fancies and Fashions page. Truth matters to me. It is, in essence, my way of life. Lies, therefore, are abhorrent.

But here’s the rub, the very worst of the matter. I could certainly refuse Aunt Alva and bear the consequences, but if I don’t convince Consuelo to marry Charles Spencer-Churchill, ninth Duke of Marlborough, her mother will force the issue and in the end Consuelo will become the man’s wife anyway, but she’ll do so with a good deal more misery than if she willingly walks down the aisle. Aunt Alva is nothing if not determined and with that legendary temper of hers, no one, but no one, will stand up to her. Even her husband, my uncle Willie K., has fled the matrimonial battlefield by retreating to his yacht on Narragansett Bay.

I ask you then, reader, what would you do in my position? Any suggestions left below will be greatly appreciated; indeed, one lucky adviser will win a copy of my dossier, Murder at Marble House, which will enable you to judge whether, in the end, I did wrongly or rightly. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end October 1, 2014.

MURDER AT MARBLE HOUSE, Coming September 30, 2014

Responding to a frantic call on her newfangled telephone from her eighteen-year-old cousin, Consuelo Vanderbilt, Emma Cross arrives at the Marble House mansion and learns the cause of her distress–Consuelo’s mother, Alva, is forcing her into marriage with the Duke of Marlborough. Her mother has even called in a fortune teller to assure Consuelo of a happy future.

But the future is short-lived for the fortune teller, who is found dead by her crystal ball, strangled with a silk scarf. Standing above her is one of the Vanderbilts’ maids, who is promptly taken into police custody. After the frenzy has died down, Consuelo is nowhere to be found. At Alva’s request, Emma must employ her sleuthing skills to determine if the vanishing Vanderbilt has eloped with the beau of her choice–or if her disappearance may be directly connected to the murder. . .

Meet the Author
Alyssa Maxwell, author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries, began a love affair with the city of Newport while visiting AlyssaMfriends there back in her high school days. Time and again the harbor side, gas lit neighborhoods drew her to return, and on one of those later visits she met the man who would become her husband.

Today, she and her husband reside beneath the palms and bright skies of Florida, but part of her heart remains firmly in that small New England city of great historical significance. The first in the Gilded Newport Mysteries, Murder at the Breakers, was released in March 2014, to be followed by MURDER AT MARBLE HOUSE in September of this year. For more about Alyssa and her books, please visit her at