Monday, March 10, 2014

Blog Tour Stop: Keeping Mum by Alyse Carlson (Guest Post, Review and Giveaway)

Please join me in welcoming Alyse Carlson to Debbie's Book Bag today. Alyse is here to promote her novel, Keeping Mum. Keeping Mum is the third book in the Garden Society Mystery series. Enjoy Alyse's guest post and check out the giveaway details for your chance to win! 

What's A Little Murder Among Friends?

Camellia Harris, my sleuth in The Garden Society Mysteries set in Roanoke, Virginia, has a sidekick, as is the tradition in Cozy Mysteries, but Cam has a little sumpin sumpin that I haven't seen much of, so I thought I'd talk a bit about the TEAM. Each of Cam's friends has a role that has propelled the sleuthing forward... or hindered it... depending on the book and the preconceptions of that particular character in that particular situation.

The overall dynamic though, is FUN. So I wanted to give you all a mini-intro to the “Fearless Foursome”

Cam:  Cam Harris is a practical, hard-working girl. She fell in love with gardening as a child because her mother was an avid gardener, and professionally, she has gone into public relations, so she feels extremely lucky to be working managing public relations for the Roanoke Garden Society (of which her deceased mother was a founding member).  Cam's primary character flaw is also her greatest professional asset—she tends to spin things into the best light, so the lines of truth are just a little bit fuzzy—but she is a loyal friend and family member, and she is smart and willing to do what is necessary when those she loves inevitably find themselves in trouble.

Annie: Some serious, practical people really NEED someone in their life who is sort of goofy, willing to push the boundaries, and who just urges them to laugh more and take life a little less seriously. For Cam, this is Annie. Cam and Annie have been best friends since middle school and Annie is the Yin to Cam's Yang. They are outwardly opposite, but fit together perfectly as friends. Cam likes to plan. Annie improvises. Cam is tidy, Annie is a tornado. Cam generally follows the rules and Annie has burned the rulebook. She doesn't endorse such nonsense.

Rob: is Cam's long-time boyfriend. He is a sports reporter, but of late he has managed to get the scoop on a couple murder stories. Cam and Rob met at a Young Media Professionals meeting (in fact more details to this story appear in this book), and Rob and Cam have a fair bit in common. They are both driven and ambitious, both have the 'snoop bug' (or they wouldn't have gone into their fields) and they both enjoy figuring out a puzzle. The place they come into conflict is that Cam has a vested interest in the story flattering her client, where Rob's interest is always in the truth. As a sports reporter, Rob is also an athlete, though only for fun these days, but his speed and agility have not gone amiss in this series.

Jake: Joaquin Moreno, or Jake, was originally just a teammate of Rob's on their city league baseball team, but as a police officer, during the first murder Cam encountered, he ended up a helpful friend or foil, depending on the moment, and in the end he was Annie's boyfriend, so he's been integrated into the group. Of the group, Jake most often plays Cam's foil, as he doesn't like the amateurs sleuthing, but he has good resources when he can be convinced, and Annie knows how to convince him to help now and then. Besides that, Cam acknowledges that Jake is good for Annie—he cares about her and is good to her, providing some much-needed grounding.

The Joys and Challenges of Sleuthing by Committee

I think with this many players involved, it has opened up doors for VARIETY in sources and clues. Both Rob and Jake have legitimate sources because of their careers, and Annie, the sneak, can sometimes get her hands on information she really shouldn't have, which leaves Cam to ask questions, but gives her some other tools in her box, too. It also means more can be communicated through dialog, which I enjoy [especially the Cam/Annie dialog—that stuff is a hoot to write].

On the other hand it also provides some challenges in 'directing' [wait, did he know that yet?] and figuring out ways to make sure everyone is informed without repeating the story three times.

Overall though, I hope this set of characters is one that most readers can say, “I'd really like to hang out with these guys for a while.” I know I would, though honestly, Annie channels my online persona and two people together with that inability to behave are surely asking for trouble.

Book Information:

Keeping Mum (Garden Society Mystery - Book 3) by Alyse Carlson

Publication Date: 03/04/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 304
ISBN-10: 042525206X
ISBN-13: 978-0425252062

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound

Alyse Carlson (aka. Hart Johnson) on the WEB: website, twitter, facebook, goodreads

Books in the series

The Azalea Assault (2012), The Begonia Bribe (2013), Keeping Mum (2014)

Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.

Excerpt from, Keeping Mum, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.


Roanoke, Virginia, is home to some of the country’s most exquisite gardens, and it’s Camellia Harris’s job to promote them. But when a political fundraiser turns deadly, everyone’s a candidate for murder...

Cam and her best friend, Annie, are planning a gala for a local Senate candidate—a murder mystery themed silent auction where the guests bid on who will be the night’s “victim.” Coordinating a beautiful display of fall flowers and planning the perfect fake crime is hard enough, but with a guest list that is a “who’s who” of the Roanoke elite, Cam has her hands full navigating the egos and grudges of her high society guests.

When local financial tycoon Derrick Windermere is found dead next to a shattered pot of chrysanthemums, the night’s fun and games quickly turn serious. Half the guests had good reason to want Windermere dead, but only one is suspiciously missing in action—Annie’s father. Now Cam will not only have to figure out which partygoer is a killer, but find her friend’s father before all their reputations end up dragged through the mud...


Keeping Mum is the third book in Alyse Carlson's Garden Society Mystery series. Set in the beautiful city of Roanoke, Virginia, which is known for it's gardens, this is a mystery that will keep readers in the hunt for the killer. Carlson's attention to detail is one of the things that readers love about the Garden Society books. She is able to make the beauty of those gardens come to life. Death by flower pot may sound a bit mild mannered, but in this cozy it's anything but. With a political angle, a great cast of characters and plenty of twists and turns this is one readers won't want to miss.

What I liked:

Many of you know that I live in Kentucky, and we have gardens of all sorts from vegetable to herb to flowers, but it's nothing like the coastal area of Virginia. Roanoke is a beautiful city and the gardens are phenomenal. I think Alyse Carlson really did her homework with this series and does a great job of bringing Roanoke's gardens to life. It is an unusual career for the cozy protagonist and I think there is a real uniqueness about this series.

Cam Harris is always a delightful heroine. She has a great cast of secondary characters behind her and she always knows how to get the information she needs to solve the crime. I think she has a lot of spunk, but it is balanced with a lot of heart. I love her relationship with Annie and how this book brought them even closer because of the connection to Annie's father, as the prime suspect of the murder. I always think that books with strong female friendships are great to read, when coupled with a mystery, they are even better.

I loved the political angle that takes place in Keeping Mum. You have an event that is in support of a political candidate, a former political office holders as the main suspect and the who's who of Roanoke all in attendance. That makes for some serious suspects with all kinds of interesting motives. Carlson goes out of her way to make all of the right connections between these characters to keep the killer just under the surface until the end. I didn't feel like I was being given the run around as a reader with this one. It was straight forward and concise but there so many believable reasons why someone would want to kill this guy, that I just couldn't figure it out. It was a lot of fun!

What I didn't like:

I liked just about everything about this one, including the flower pot of death. It may not be a totally original idea but it definitely felt fitting for this series. One thing that did take a little bit away from this one, was that we did not get to see very many of the townspeople other than the main character and her posse. I like all of the interesting people we have met so far in this series and hope to see more of them in the next book.

Bottom Line:

This was a great addition to the series. Carlson continues to engage readers with beautiful descriptions and interesting information about Roanoke. She balances Cam's personal life with her career and the mystery itself well. It's just a well rounded good cozy series. I can't wait to see what happens next. 

Keeping Mum is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

About the Author:

Alyse Carlson is the author of the Garden Society Mysteries, including The Azalea Assault and The Begonia BribeKeeping Mum is the third in the series.

Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Keeping Mum by Alyse Carlson.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, March 24th.

1. Please leave a comment about your own gardening experiences. Veg, flowers, herbs, you name it.
2. Please fill out the FORM.


Hart Johnson said...

Thank you so much for hosting me, Debbie! (this is Alyse with her other hat on)--And thank you for the kind review!

traveler said...

I plant veggies and herbs each summer and have wonderful and colorful pansies in the barrels and yard too. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Arlee Bird said...

Nice seeing you at your book-selling table, Alyse/Hart. Hope you were selling lots of books!

If I don't like characters I'm not too interested in reading about them. I prefer to read about characters that I like or at least, who are interesting enough for me to want to know more about them.

Wrote By Rote
An A to Z Co-host blog

Old Kitty said...

What a great bunch of pals and what a fabulous set up for all sorts of cozy mysteries to solve! Brilliant!! Hello Tart and hello Debbie's book bag!! Thanks for the fab review too! Take care

Linda Kish said...

The only thing I am able to grow well is weeds. We do have a few rose bushes and trees but other than that, it's pretty much grass and ground cover.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Bonnie said...

I love to garden. My favorite plant is Hosta. It's easy to grow and very hardy.

holdenj said...

We're still a couple months away from planting around here, but this is the time of year I start planning! What works and doesn't, particularly trying different spots for veggies! Thanks!

Kimberlee said...

I don't garden but I do visit the Farmer's Market for fresh veggies and fruits.


cyn209 said...

when we first moved into our house a million years ago, I started growing flowers/plants in pots in my was pretty nice....

thank you for the giveaway!!!

Charlotte said...

I had a rose garden at one time. Had to give it because of health.

Angela - Bookaunt said...

We are starting our own aquaponics business so here shortly I will have many gardening stories.


Last summer, we planted our first vegetable garden. It was fun, but a lot of work. We're still learning and looking forward to this year's garden.

lag123 said...

I have tried and tried to garden but I do not have a green thumb.

lag110 at mchsi dot com

Anonymous said...

I am not a very good gardener, I do best with plants that do not require much attention.


Karen B said...

My gardening now consists of hanging flower baskets!Years and years ago I had a small vegetable garden and planted flowers.

Rita Wray said...

I love working in the garden, it is very relaxing. I love flowers and have been planning my garden for when the weather warms up.


Dotty Kelley said...

No gardening for me. I've killed every plant I've ever been given.

Barbara T. said...

I have given up gardening. Love flowers and plants, but don't bother with veggies. No rain in summer, so watering is an issue.

Elizabeth said...

I had my first vegetable garden at 12. I grew peppers, carrots, watermelons and tomatoes. I live in Texas now and due to water shortages along with the drought, it is hard to grow any flowers.

bn100 said...

Don't have a lot of veggies in the garden

Nancy said...

In our younger days, we used to raise corn, potatoes,peas, tomatoes, and cantalope. One year, we caught a turtle eating on our cantalope.

Linda said...

Had vegetable gardens when had a huge backyard, ample rainfall, and enthusiastic young son to do weeding, planting & picking. Not to mention eating! Never did we'll with flower gardens. Now I just enjoy other people's gardens and visit farmers market!

Anita Yancey said...

I don't really do much gardening. I don't have a green thumb, and everything I plant dies or doesn't come up. I let my husband plant all of my flowers, he's much better at it.


Brooke Showalter said...

I am a terrible gardener...everything I plant seems to die. :-/

Natasha said...

I haven't done any gardening yet.
Thanks for the chance to win!

Carol M said...

I have a small flower garden. I just plant whatever and enjoy it! I especially like watching the the butterflies that come to my butterfly bushes.

Karin said...

Not really a gardener...but we do have a lot of hollyhocks every year.

Sue Farrell said...

Over the years I've probably planted just about everything that will grow here in the north country. I ove to get my hands in the dirt. But I am finding that as I get older I'm having to cut back---too much time on the knees and I can't get back up.