Murder in the Dog Days
by P.M. Carlson
September 1-30, 2017 Book Tour
On a sweltering Virginia day in 1975, reporter Olivia Kerr, her husband Jerry Ryan, his very pregnant sister Maggie and her family decide to have a beach picnic. Olivia invites her colleague Dale Colby and his family to join them. At the last minute, Dale decides to stay home to pursue an important story. But when the beach-goers return, they find Dale lifeless in a pool of blood inside his locked office.
Police detective Holly Schreiner leads the investigation, battling Maggie—and demons of her own.
Don’t Miss These Great Reviews:
“An ingeniously plotted, fair-play, locked-room mystery, one of the best we’ve encountered.” — Tom and Enid Schantz, The Denver Post
“A dandy locked room murder…The investigation is a dangerous one… [the] solution both surprising and satisfying” — A Suitable Job for a Woman
“A satisfying, fast-paced whodunit that also explores a range of social issues, especially the violence of war and its aftermath.” — Cynthia R. Benjamins, Fairfax Journal
“[Maggie Ryan] has been a role model for women since the beginning and I loved watching her merge marriage and children with her talent for solving mysteries!” — Margaret Maron
Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: The Mystery Company / Crum Creek Press
Publication Date: April 2014
Number of Pages: 271
Series: Maggie Ryan and Nick O’Connor #6
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Smashwords 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗
Love this Video Chat Featuring Murder in the Dog Days:
P.M. Carlson taught psychology and statistics at Cornell University before deciding that mystery writing was more fun. She has published twelve mystery novels and over a dozen short stories. Her novels have been nominated for an Edgar Award, a Macavity Award, and twice for Anthony Awards. Two short stories were finalists for Agatha Awards. She edited the Mystery Writers Annual for Mystery Writers of America for several years, and served as president of Sisters in Crime.
Q&A with P.M. Carlson
Thanks! It’s good to be here.
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Yes and yes. Also yes to psychological case studies and to past events. When I’m starting a novel from scratch, I look for for what I call a “constellation” of ideas. For example, before I began MURDER IN THE DOG DAYS, I’d written several Maggie Ryan mysteries about a smart, caring, often humorous woman coming of age in the late 1960’s-70’s. Those turbulent times were redefining much about women’s (and men’s) lives, and the serious economic and personal problems my friends and I faced found their way naturally into the stories. Maggie helped me explore issues and often helped me laugh about them.
But I was beginning to feel guilty about not dealing directly with one major issue for Americans of that generation: the Vietnam war. I started reading veterans’ accounts and talking to vets.
About the same time I read a little story in an Indiana newspaper about a man who had died in an odd way.
And I was getting to know a friend who was an investigative reporter, and realizing that her drive to get a story, though not identical to the love of research that my academic friends shared with me, was also a passion for truth.
And Maggie, of course, was starting a family, so family issues were on my mind.
Veterans, family, reporters, an odd death–– a random collection of ideas, right? But in my head these seemed to relate to each other. That’s what I call a “constellation.” They began to pull other ideas into their orbit. For example, when I thought about the setting for a story about war, it seemed right to put the action in Virginia, which–– as we recently saw in Charlottesville–– still suffers from the scars of the Civil War. But why would Maggie be there? Visiting her brother, of course, which would underline the family issues I was interested in. Characters began to take form, the brother and the reporters, and then the police detective strode into my head and said “Hey, I’m Holly Schreiner, and this book is about me.” I realized the Vietnam war had just checked in, and it was time to write.
Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
Both! I’m most efficient with a mystery when I have a sketchy idea of where it will end and how it will get there. The “constellation” of ideas I just described may include the motive and mechanics of the murder. So I make a list–– major turns in the plot, a few important events in subplots suggested by the characters. Then I shuffle and space them so I won’t have chapter after chapter of buildup with all the exciting plot turns put off till Chapter 24.
For me, it’s also important to avoid overplanning, so I keep the “plot” at the bullet-point level. Once I’m writing, the most fun is what bubbles up from the combination of things already in the stories. One reason my detective Maggie Ryan and her actor husband Nick O’Connor enjoy each other’s company is the games they improvise, sometimes to get information, sometimes to thwart an injustice, sometimes just for fun. But Maggie is passionate about finding the truth and a fair conclusion. Of course some of the characters, like Detective Holly Schreiner, don’t agree with her methods, and the resulting arguments can be fierce.
Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I love writing but hate starting to write. In fact, I hate starting anything–– getting out of bed in the morning, closing a book to start lunch, etc. Inertia should be my middle name. So I have to play tricks on myself. Sometimes I stop mid-paragraph, making the next day’s start easier because I’ll know what’s coming up. But my secret weapon comes from my experience training lab rats: the power of reward. I put a chocolate near my desk that I’m not allowed to eat until I’ve written at least a paragraph. By then the writing is its own reward.
Tell us why we should read this book.
Readers who like visiting another time will find an authentic view of the US in the late sixties and seventies in the Maggie Ryan mysteries. They’ll find that Maggie and Nick’s America was dealing with many problems that are resurfacing today, with angry political divisions about racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, oppression of women, and on and on.
The Maggie Ryan series has also been described as “mysteries of character”. Maggie and Nick enjoy each other’s humor and sometimes play pranks on stuffier folks, although they’ve both had griefs of their own and share a deep sense of justice. As a psychologist I find myself digging deep into all the characters, major and minor, and the problems they are facing.
And of course, Maggie Ryan mysteries are mysteries! Fans of fair-play plotting should know that MURDER IN THE DOG DAYS is a good locked-room mystery.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
William Shakespeare, Dorothy Parker, Anton Chekhov, Christine Downing, Robert Jay Lifton, Miguel de Cervantes, and lots of mystery authors
What are you reading now?
A Kathy Reichs mystery, also Kitty Molony’s memoir of touring America in 1886-87 with the great American Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth.
Can you tell us a little about your next novel?
Next up in the Maggie Ryan series is MURDER MISREAD. It’s different from MURDER IN THE DOG DAYS because it’s an academic mystery told from the points of view of two different professors. It’s similar in the emphasis on character and motive, and on finding a fair resolution to a bad situation.
Favorite leisure activity?
I love seeing live plays! Books are great, movies are great, but in the theatre there’s the additional thrill of being in the same space with the talented human beings who are performing the story at the very moment you’re seeing it. It’s a social event as well as a funny, or moving, or spirit-lifting event. Luckily my husband teaches theatre in New York City so I get to see lots of shows, about sixty a year.
I’m with Maggie Ryan on this one–– I love French cooking. Their recipes seem to find the essence of a trout, or a bean, or an apple and enhance it with just the right seasoning. Maggie’s ability to prepare French meals is one of the best things that she learned in her year abroad, and fun to write about when the stories need a food scene.
Thank you for stopping by CMash Reads and spending time with us.
Thanks for inviting me, Cheryl!
Catch Up With Our Author On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Smashwords, & Twitter 🔗!
Read an excerpt: