Monday, January 19, 2015

Northern California Murders by Michele Drier

Amy Hobbes is a newspaper editor in the mid-sized Northern California town of Monroe.
She came there for all the wrong reasons and stayed because she had no place else to go.

Now settled, maybe, she works with her police reporter, Clarice Stamms, to discover not who did it, but WHY they did it.

Amy was a police reporter years before for a large Southern California daily newspaper and in her new role as Managing Editor, misses the adrenaline of a breaking news story—particularly if it involves a dead body.
As traditional mysteries, the Amy Hobbes Newspaper Mysteries don’t have violence (except those dead guys!) or a lot of sex (well, there is Phillipe in San Francisco) but do have intricate plots that feature Northern California as a silent character
The first book, Edited for Death (called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review) is set in the Sierra Nevada foothills, in the fabled small towns of the Gold Rush. Bodies pop up in an historic hotel in Marshalltown, once a thriving hub for miners heading into the hills in search of wealth.

A contemporary source of wealth, California’s wine industry finds Amy and Clarice wondering why vineyard workers—Spanish speakers who migrate with the crops up and down the Central Valley— are turning up dead under the grape vines in Labeled for Death.

Water—who owns it and who wants it—is a constant discussion in California, with the rain-drenched north pitted against the desert south and this might be enough to break the state in half. In Delta for Death, Clarice is looking for reasons why two construction workers have been murdered in the nearly Delta, the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers that empties into San Francisco Bay.

Using setting as a character and a moving force means that the murders, and Amy and Clarice’s hunt for answers, has a physical and historical matrix that becomes part of the plot. People choose to live where they do in California, because the lure of the Gold Rush...the belief that wealth is just over the horizon in the a motivating factor even today.

As a fifth-generation Californian, I’m continually fascinated with the reasons that people came to (and continue to come to) California. In the Amy Hobbes books I explore how the search for riches has helped shape the state...and why some people are willing to die while searching.

Edited for Death

Amy Hobbes never expected to solve anything tougher than a crossword puzzle. When she left her job as a journalist in Southern California, she planned to give the adrenaline a rest, but her next job, managing editor of a local newspaper, delivers some surprises. After a respected Senator and World War II hero dies and two more people turn up dead, the news heats up. Both victims had ties to a hotel owned by the Senator's family. With the help of reporter pal Clarice and the new man in her life, Phil, Amy uncovers a number of shadowy figures, including a Holocaust survivor who's spent sixty years tracking down Nazi loot. It's a complex and dangerous puzzle, but Amy can't walk away until she solves it.

Clarice is a rangy blond, a few pounds overweight and perennially on a diet. She lounges against my office doorway, and I ask if she wants to grab lunch.
“Now?” she asks back.
“Sure. I thought it might be nice to get out of the office for a bit. You are planning to eat?”
“Let’s walk. How about the Greek place?”
I had taken a little more care this morning, twisting my brown, shoulder-length hair into a clip and doing blush, eyeliner and mascara. My size eight brown linen slacks, cream-colored silk shirt and blazer are really too warm for a walk today, but the outfit gives me a scooch more confidence to deal with Clarice. I’m not intimidated—exactly—it’s just that she can back me down with her brashness, and today I need her.
As soon as we sit, I start talking. My agenda is a discussion of the small mountain towns. Really, just Marshalltown. I know what I want. I want some in-depth coverage of the senator’s life to go with the research I’m planning. But I also see a chance to get more features into the paper.
“No,” Clarice says through her mouthful of falafel. “That’s just too far away.  There’s plenty of stuff here. We’re already short staffed.”
“Come on, I’m going to ask each reporter to do one more story a month. That’s not going to break anyone,” I say around the straw in my mouth.
“I don’t think I’m gonna like this.” Clarice has a death-grip on a slice of lemon. “We’re having lunch because you want to start with me, right?”
I can’t fault her ability to read between the lines. 

Labeled for Death

Vineyards around Monroe are being harvested, the ripe grape bunches sliced off the vines and trucked to wineries, where they’ll be crushed to make some of California’s finest wines. Amy Hobbes, managing editor of the Monroe Press has other stories in mind, until Clarice Stamms, her cops reporter blows in with news about another harvest, two bodies tucked up under the vines. The field workers were stabbed and their throats sliced. Are they just victims of a worker’s anger?
When the town’s most popular and well-known hooker turns up at the vineyard’s labor camp, sliced and stabbed as well, Amy and Clarice are on the hunt again, the adrenaline tingling down their nerve endings.
Who’s the killer stalking the vineyards and why?

When she calls, it’s bad. The trailer tipped off an elevated freeway connector ramp. The truck itself fell onto the freeway lanes below, smashing two cars while most of its load of grapes spilled out on the ramp. Both roads are closed and the CHP is already on the scene, trying to direct traffic into a makeshift lane they’ve opened on the shoulder.
“I know they’ve called for a Medi-Vac helicopter. They’ll have to shut down all northbound lanes to land it.” Clarice’s voice is excited. She knows this will be a page one story.
“How many injured?”
“It looks like two injured and maybe one dead.” Her voice drops a little. “The cars smushed by the truck are pretty bad.”
“OK, Luis’s on his way. Are you somewhere you can get out?”
I hear her sigh. “Yep, I parked on the shoulder of the freeway. Once it’s opened, I can drive down to the next ramp and loop back. I’ll look for Luis. It’s going to be a while.”
Now it’s my turn to sigh. “I’ll tell Sandy to hold page one. Get back as soon as you can, but take care.”
Truck accidents are inevitable here. With the Central Valley producing the lion’s share of agricultural products in the U.S., trucks haul most of the year—livestock, chickens, fruits and vegetables, cotton. Late summer and fall is when the traffic peaks with tomatoes, peaches and grapes in our part of the valley. There’s always some squished fruit on the freeways, baking into the asphalt until the rains start and turn it into a slick mush again.
I’m particularly concerned about this one and Clarice. She’s always ready to go but a couple of years ago she went out to cover a truck that slammed into an abutment of an overcrossing. It was a single vehicle accident. The truck caught fire. Gas that spilled across the freeway caught fire. The responders couldn’t get to the trucker.
Clarice listened to his screams until they stopped.
She’s told me she still hears the screams when she gets to a truck accident.
And sometimes at night.

You can find the books here: Edited for Death, 
 Labeled for Death, and Barnes and Nobles in both paperback and e-format. 
Delta for Death will be published in March 2015.

Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home.  During her career in journalism—as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers—she won awards for producing investigative series.
SNAP: All That Jazz, Book Eight of The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, was published June 30, 2014The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles paranormal romance series include SNAP: The World Unfolds, SNAP: New Talent, Plague: A Love Story, DANUBE: A Tale of Murder, SNAP: Love for Blood, SNAP: Happily Ever After?, SNAP: White Night and SNAP: All That Jazz.  SNAP: I, Vampire, Book Nine in the Kandesky Vampire Chronicles is scheduled for publication early 2015.
She also writes the Amy Hobbes Newspaper mysteries, Edited for Death and Labeled for Death. A third book, Delta for Death, is coming in 2015.


Michele Drier said...

Thanks so much for having me as a guest, Paty!

Elaine Faber said...

You write so many books, Michele, it's hard to keep up with you. These excerpts sound really great. I think I like your Journalism stories better than the vampires!

JoAnne Myers said...

Hello Michele, the excerpts make the book sound wonderful. All the best with it.

Kathleen L. Asay said...

Hi Michele, I'm looking forward to the next Amy book and more of your take on NorCal. As a SoCal gal now writing about Sacramento, I'm finding the region rich for storytelling and enjoying your books set near here, too.
Kathleen Asay

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

I love it that these are all based in Northern California and involve so many California issues (water, migrant workers, etc.) It sounds like a great series with an original slant.

Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

I agree with Elaine, you do write so many books, Michele. I was checking on kindle yesterday and was surprised to see you have 8 novels published in your Snap series. Congratulations!
You are an inspiration for me to get moving.

R. Franklin James said...

Michele, Edited for Death is a page-turning mystery. Congratulations on a work well done.

Linda T. said...

Michele, I'm a huge fan of your Amy Hobbs mysteries!

June Gillam said...

Love your rich settings in California's North Central Valley--my Hillary Broome characters romp all over San Joaquin County, too *:) it would be funny if they met up!

Cindy Sample said...

This is one of my favorite mystery series. Michele definitely makes northern California come alive in her books. Can't wait for the next one!

Michele Drier said...

Thank you all for the great words! Now I have to buckle down and finish Delta for Death!
And Gail, #9, SNAP: I, Vampire is impatiently waiting to be told.

Debera Smith said...

Michele, I love your books and have read all of them. I have been anxiously waiting for both Delta for Death and I, Vampire!!!

karla eakin said...

This sounds like an interesting series. the Labeled for Death grabbed my attention the most. Will have to thank Paty Jager for sending me over to check this out.