Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On Whiskey and Motherhood: Why I Acquired Whiskey and Soda

Whiskey and motherhood—typically, those two words don’t go together, but in the sixth installment to Nina Wright’s Whiskey Mattimoe series, well, actually, they still might not go together. That’s one of the lingering mysteries that’s been around since Book 1 and one that readers—and Whiskey herself—will have to solve on their own.

If you’re not yet a fan of the series, I suggest you start with the first title, Whiskey on the Rocks, to get sense of the ongoing misadventures of the recently widowed, 30-something realtor and amateur sleuth, her felonious Afghan hound, Abra, and the quirky residents of Magnet Springs, Michigan, where most of the mysteries take place. Whiskey on the Rocks is the first appearance that the not-so-intrepid Whiskey makes, and it’s the book that hooked me from page one.
When Nina Wright’s first manuscript came across my desk about nine years ago—I was still an agent then—the first line, “He was lying there like you are now, only he was dead,” and the Northern Exposure feel captured me right off, and I couldn’t put the book down or stop giggling as I read. I’ve got a soft spot for cozies anyway, but this one had everything I like in the genre, and we ended up representing it. Several years later, we’re thrilled to be publishing the series, particularly this new addition (no pun intended *wink*), and excited that readers have been waiting for the next novel.

I’m one of those readers. Growing up in a family of book fiends, I was weaned on, among other stories, mysteries of all kinds. It is only natural that during my time in the publishing world I’ve always kept an eye out for books that my grandmother and my mother would have loved, as they were avid readers who could polish off a mass market paperback or two in a day, and I trust their book judgment implicitly. I knew immediately that both of them would have gobbled that first book up and become series fans.

I also love dogs, even if they have criminal tendencies and a penchant for finding dead bodies, and Abra is, for the dog mystery enthusiast, irresistible. She’s a saucy diva of a hound with a healthy dose of attitude, uncontrollable kleptomania, and an unbridled desire to make Whiskey’s life as complicated as possible, or at least Whiskey thinks so. And Abra isn’t the only dog in Magnet Springs to help wreak havoc in this series. A variety of canines appear, including K-9 officer Roscoe, Norman the Golden, Abra’s son Prince Harry the Pee Master, and in this latest caper, Sandra the French bulldog, a femme fatale who threatens to topple Abra’s place as head bitch and derail one of Whiskey’s most important relationships.

On the human side, there’s Jenx, the police chief who's been friends with Whiskey since high school and whose anger can affect the magnetic fields surrounding the town with disastrous effects. There's also Chester, a genius in the body of an 8-year-old and Whiskey’s neighbor who regularly crawls through her window and challenges both her patience and her maternal instincts, at least when he’s not wrangling dogs, cracking codes, being kidnapped, or whipping up a 5-star gourmet meal from the likes of cottage cheese, popcorn, frozen waffles, coffee beans, and scraps of apple. And how can we forget hunky Jeb, Whiskey's first singer/musician first husband who never stopped loving her?

Finally, and one of the most important reasons I love these books, is that it’s rare to find a mystery series of any kind that works on more than one level, and this one does that. For those who just want a cozy murder mystery with endearing characters and humor, the Whiskey series is just what the literary doctor ordered. For those who read the book and connect to something deeper, that’s there, too. Whiskey, throughout the series, is working through the grief process. In Book 1, her 2nd husband, Leo Mattimoe, has died in an accident that almost killed her as well. But she survived, and throughout this series her ongoing battle with Abra represents the struggle anyone who’s ever battled survivor’s guilt has faced. Every ending, I swear, leaves me in tears, because our struggling heroine is possibly one step closer to moving forward with her life. Possibly.

Book 6, Whiskey and Soda, is about just that—moving forward. It’s about the fears every woman faces in her life as she tries to make sense of her past and face her future, and Whiskey does it all the while trying to solve a murder mystery that only the wily mind of author Nina Wright can construct.

And that's why I acquired Whiskey and Soda.