Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
I am thrilled to welcome Maggie Toussaint to Escape With Dollycas today!
Shrimply Dead (A Seafood Caper Mystery)
by Maggie Toussaint
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi, everyone. So happy you’re here. I’m Maggie Toussaint, and I write cozy mysteries, though I first published in romantic suspense and took a slight detour through dystopian fiction. I come from a family of readers and for most of my life I’ve had my nose stuck in a book.
Within the pages of a book I’ve traveled to new worlds, learned different customs, and lived vicariously through the characters. Reading and kind librarians who recommended books for my insatiable reading habit opened my eyes to new possibilities beyond what this small town gal ever imagined. It is my fervent hope that the books I write provide you with similar entertainment.
What are three things most people don’t know about you?
First up, my angel collection. As a young family with growing children we lived too far away to come home for every family funeral for my very large family, and flying was out of our budget. So I bought angels for each aunt or uncle who died. At first they were scattered around the house, but I have most of them clustered in my office now.
Second, I adore sneakers. When the cushioning in them wears thin, I buy new ones and use the older ones for gardening or boating. I can’t bear to throw them away!
Third, I am a backyard bird watcher. I keep two feeders going year-round. We see local birds and migrating birds at our feeders and birdbath. Recently I had a few days of robins, and they had a crazy-good time splashing in the birdbath.
What is the first book you remember reading?
A Dick and Jane primer, as in See Dick. See Jane. See Spot. See Spot Run. Run, Spot, Run.
What are you reading now?
I am currently rereading Jayne Ann Krentz’s Lost and Found. Her books fall under romantic suspense as romance is the main plotline, but the mystery in her books is very much a cozy. She has two pen names, Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle, and I love all of her writing. When I have downtime, I can read a book a day, though that’s not so great for my eyes or body. I forget to eat or drink, and I don’t move unless I need a bathroom break. I read across all genres, but I enjoy fast-paced, entertaining writing. I guess that’s because I’m a book junkie.
What books have most inspired you?
Like many of us who are a certain age, I grew up reading books by Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, and other suspense novelists. Other than mythology, I didn’t know there books about paranormal activities or space travel, so Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time opened the universe of possibilities to preteen me. The other huge influence on my early reading was our set of World Book Encyclopedias. Within those pages was so much information! I could learn about anything, or so it seemed. My father made a point of reading the entire set from A to Z. Fast forward 45 years to when we moved from Maryland back to Georgia and we couldn’t even give those encyclopedias away. The internet rendered home reference books obsolete, but I still collect reference books on topics of interest to me. You never know if the internet will disappear one day.
What made you decide you wanted to write mysteries?
There’s a part of me that likes to figure out how things go together. I can sit for hours with jigsaw puzzles, and I also enjoy word searches, Sudoku, and crossword puzzles. My strategy for puzzles is to work a small area at a time and expand out. If I think about the whole thing at once, it’s daunting. So I’m hypervigilant and observant about a small area. If you think about it, that’s one way to pattern a cozy. I often start with a death and work out from the people who were in contact with that victim. It is exciting to have the mystery story pieces fit together just right, and my puzzling love fed right into my creative desire to write novels.
Do you have a special place you like to write?
I can and have written anywhere. My special time for writing is morning. I can generally knock out my word count goal quickly in mornings, while the same amount of words will take hours longer in the afternoon. I have an office with a great desk and an ergonomic keyboard, but I also like to write in different chairs around the house and at the kitchen island. When I first began writing, I had to squeeze it in while my kids were at sports activities and I waited on the sidelines or in the car. Everything was longhand back then. Anyway, that training to work anywhere has certainly been a recipe for success for me.
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
Everywhere. Truly, I am a walking story sponge, and I get bits and pieces of ideas from conversations, observing nature, listening to the news, reading obituaries, and so much more. What’s most important to me is that the idea really matters because then I am all-in on the story.
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
It’s hard to prioritize writing as third place after family and personal health. When I’m in the zone, I don’t want to be disturbed. I want to mine that conduit to the story ether for as much as I can before it goes away. But there’s this thing called life, and I am living it and required to do certain things. When life gets challenging (as in an illness, crowded schedule, or a pandemic), finding time to write and summoning the commitment to do it one way or another is hard. Once covid-head sets in, I stop and do something else in the creative field such as arts and crafts, gardening, sewing, or music. That recharges my muse and then I can double up next time I write because the ideas are more fully formed.
What do you think makes a good story?
Characters who are as real to me as living, breathing people. Settings that feel authentic. Jeopardy for the characters I love. And justice. Justice is important to me.
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?
It took me a long time to realize this. All of my protagonists have some quality of me in them. They are not me, and I am not them. They are braver, more outgoing, and more personable. However, I regard Cleopatra Jones, Baxley Powell Mayes, and River Holloway as friends.
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?
There are so many great authors in this genre, sometimes it’s humbling to be in the mix. I would never say my books are better than other cozy authors, but they are different because my quirky personality is reflected in my writing voice. I write books that I love to read, and I blur the boundaries of genres a bit.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I’m going to enjoy bringing Shrimply Dead out this spring and summer. I have loved writing about Shell Island and River Holloway, and I’d like to write more in this story world. It’s just that my muse pointed me to Savannah and a new story situation. It’s got a quirky family and a wonderful artisan co-op shop frequented by the city’s art students and more. There are two shop cats and a bit of paranormal interest for those who’ve wanted a return to that lane. Did you know Savannah is also known as the City of the Dead from much of the town being built atop cemeteries? It’s a true fact. Also, the city has earned the designation of the “Most Haunted City.” In any event, it’s the perfect location for my next series, the Two Sisters Apothecary Mysteries.
Thank you, Maggie, for visiting today!
Now keep reading for my thoughts about Shrimply Dead.
About Shrimply Dead
Shrimply Dead by Maggie Toussaint, When veterinarian and amateur naturalist Jasmine Garr is shot in her yard, residents of Shell Island press caterer River Holloway into investigating the homicide. River dons her amateur sleuth cap and sets out to discover who killed her former catering customer.
Shrimply Dead by Maggie Toussaint, Between Jasmine’s estranged cousin, a rival veterinarian, a wild animal trapper, the chicken lady, and a real estate broker, River has plenty of suspects to consider. As she peels back the layers of Jasmine’s life, dangerous secrets come to light.
Jasmine’s orphaned kitty, Iris, along with River’s cat Major, and her husband Pete help River sift through the evidence. At the same time, River recently expanded her catering business. She must service her regular catering clients, plus provide fresh baked goods for Pete’s ice cream shop.
The killer follows River’s every move relishing the thought of another victim. Time is running out. Will River solve the murder before she becomes a cold dish?
River Holloway’s catering business is growing by leaps and bounds especially now that she is providing cookies and cakes for her husband’s ice cream shop, Island Creamery. Soon after catering an event for the Nature Coalition its volunteer of the year, veterinarian Jasmine Garr is shot in the back in her own yard. Gossip Central, also known as the Post Office is spreading news of the murder and led by Ola Mae Reed recruiting River to don her amateur sleuth cap and catch the killer before they strike again.
Soon River is juggling her catering clients, baking up a storm for Pete’s ice cream shop, and a murder investigation. It isn’t long before she has a variety of suspects. The chicken lady who found the body, Jasmine’s cousin and likely heir, two would-be suitors, and a rival veterinarian. River quickly sees Jasmine Garr was not the woman she thought she was and starts to uncover some secrets that could be deadly. Definitely deadly for Jasmine Garr but they could also prove deadly for River.
River Holloway is such a strong protagonist. She is such a genuine person with a huge heart. It is almost impossible for her to say “no” to anyone. She has a full plate but still takes on delivering food to those in need. She also has a soft heart when it comes to animals. Her cat, Major certainly has River wrapped around her paw as do a couple of other animals before the story wraps.
Alligators, chickens, and an ancient tree, oh my! Ms. Toussaint has penned a marvelous mystery. Twists, turns, and secrets abound leading up to an edge of your seat reveal. The story is well-written with a well-plotted mystery. The subplots are interesting and really add to the story. The pace is excellent building to a very suspenseful reveal and takedown. Wow! I was totally surprised when the killer was revealed.
Life on Shell Island is cleverly presented. A typical small town with eccentric residents where everyone needs to be in the know of everyone’s business.
Both Pete and River’s businesses had my mouth drooling. I have a huge sweet tooth so I would be a constant visitor to Island Creamery. That being said I would love to be at every event River caters. Her recipes tempt my taste buds especially when they are described in delicious detail by the author.
Shrimply Dead is a super addition to this series. I hope we get to visit these characters again soon.
Your Great Escapes Travel Agent
More About Maggie Toussaint
Southern author Maggie Toussaint writes cozy and paranormal mysteries, romantic suspense, and dystopian fiction, with more than twenty fiction novels published. A multi-year finalist for Georgia Author of the Year, she’s won Silver Falchions, the Readers’ Choice, and the EPIC Awards. She’s past president of Mystery Writers of America-Southeast chapter and an officer of LowCountry Sisters In Crime. She lives in coastal Georgia, where secrets, heritage, and ancient oaks cast long shadows.
Also by this Author
Great Escapes Praise for Shrimply Dead (A Seafood Caper Mystery)
by Maggie Toussaint
From rampaging alligators to kidnapped chickens to a treasure hunt for an extinct Georgia tree, the reader is taken on a ride. As River begins unearthing clues to find out who killed the veterinarian, she finds the victim had her own secrets.
~Cinnamon, Sugar, and a Little Bit of Murder
There are surprises for River and the reader as clues and misdirections are scattered throughout. The pace is good, and the chickens, alligators, and cats add a whole new dimension. Shrimply Dead is an enjoyable cozy mystery.
~Christa Reads and Writes
Shrimply Dead was an interesting read. . . . I particularly enjoyed the way the various characters were portrayed . .