Tag Archives: J.J. Cook

Author Showcase ~ Sweet Pepper Hero by J.J. Cook

Sweet Pepper Hero
Old rivalries heat up in the fourth Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade mystery from the national bestselling author of In Hot Water.

Fire chief Stella Griffin has been put in charge of judging the annual recipe contest, but Eric—her resident ghost and true culinary genius—has vanished. Before she can track down his latest haunt, she’s called in to investigate a local moonshine distillery that was set ablaze, making her realize there’s more than pies and cakes cooking in Sweet Pepper.

As rumors of a revived whiskey war ignite, Stella turns to the town’s elders to help her find answers. The past might have some clues as to what has sparked the present fires. But when following a lead lands her in buried rubble, Stella realizes she must extinguish this case fast or she might be going down in flames.

Release: January 2016
Series: Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade #4
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

About the author
Joyce and Jim Lavene write award-winning, bestselling mystery and urban fantasy fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook, and Ellie Grant. Their first mystery novel, Last Dance, won the Master’s Choice Award for best first mystery novel in 1999. Their romance, Flowers in the Night, was nominated for the Frankfurt Book Award in 2000.

They have written and published more than 70 novels that are sold worldwide for Harlequin, Penguin, Amazon, and Simon and Schuster. They have also published hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in Midland, North Carolina with their family and their rescue pets—Rudi, Stan Lee, and Quincy.

Visit them at: www.joyceandjimlavene.com, on Amazon, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Giveaway: Leave comment below for the chance to win a copy of SWEET PEPPER HERO. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end January 14 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

Crème Brulee’s Role With The Biscuit Bowl by J.J. Cook

Fry Another DayI know that I might seem like a small part of the equation that’s helping my friend, Zoe Chase, follow her dreams in her food truck, The Biscuit Bowl. But I’m an important part.

Without me, Zoe wouldn’t have anyone to talk to about her foodie dreams. She tells me everything – from new recipes she wants to try – to her schemes for the restaurant she hopes to open someday. We watch all the cooking shows together.

I live with her, you know. We’ve come down a step or two since we left our apartment and took up living in this old diner, but I understand her reasoning on it. It’s a dive, but it’s cheap. I don’t appreciate that she expects me to catch mice and lay them at her feet. I’m a cat – not a one-man army! That’s what you’d have to be in this place.

From here, with my help and the food truck, Zoe’s deep fried biscuit bowl is going to make her rich and famous! She has other help too – her friends Ollie, Delia, and Miguel. And her Uncle Saul who owns that stupid white alligator. Whoever heard of such a thing?

Anyway, we know where we’re going. The Sweet Magnolia Food Truck Race is going to help us get there. Lots of exposure to a national TV audience. Thousands of foodies who are craving Zoe’s biscuit bowls. Sweet!

I had to go along as Zoe’s inspiration though I’m not crazy about sneaking into hotel rooms and spending my day in the truck. She needs me to be with her – especially now that there’s been a food truck driver murder. Who else is going to protect her? While she’s trying to play kissy-face with Miguel, I’m holding the line against strangers trying to ruin our big moment.

Personally, I can’t wait to get back home to Mobile, Alabama. The food isn’t as good and Zoe isn’t as attentive being out on the road going from city to city, trying to win the prize money. And I don’t like being walked with a harness and leash.

But I’ll hang with her, you know? She’s my girl. I’m her cat. We’re together forever. Take that anyone who thinks they can come between us!

You can read more about Crème Brulee’s adventures in Fry Another Day, the second book in the “Biscuit Bowl Food Truck” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series is Death on Eat Street.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 p.m. eastern on February 18 for the chance to win a copy of FRY ANOTHER DAY. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes.

About the author
J.J. Cook writes award-winning, best-selling mystery fiction as themselves, Joyce and Jim Lavene, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 70 novels for Harlequin, Penguin, Amazon, and Simon and Schuster along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. Visit them at www.joyceandjimlavene.com.

My Musing ~ Fry Another Day by J.J. Cook

Fry Another DayFry Another Day by J.J. Cook is the second book in the “Biscuit Bowl Food Truck” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, February 2015

From the national bestselling author of the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries comes the second in a new series featuring Zoe Chase, a Southern food truck chef who serves justice on the side.

With a few loyal friends in tow—including her handsome attorney, Miguel, and her cat, Crème Brûlée—Zoe drives the Biscuit Bowl to Charlotte, North Carolina, to enter a nationally televised food truck race. The contest features challenges across the Southeast, and with a fifty-thousand-dollar grand prize, competition isn’t just fierce—it’s killer.

As everyone gears up for the first challenge, another food trucker from Zoe’s hometown is found dead. The race rolls on, but when the body count rises, police begin to suspect Miguel. Now Zoe must race to catch the killer before her attorney needs an attorney.

What I fun time I had traveling with Zoe on her Food Truck race across the southeast, where food is divine with murder served up as a side dish. When Miguel becomes a person of interest, Zoe will have bake and fry up a killer.

I love the tone and pace of this light and fresh drama that accelerated as I got closer to the reveal of the killer’s identity. The mystery was finely tuned where every time I thought I had my finger on the pulse of the killer, the author changed directions which added to the mystique of this exciting tale. With a quirky cast of characters, witty banter and just plain fun, this was a great read and I can’t wait to see what adventure awaits this group of friends in the next book in this appetizing appealing series.

A Day in the Life of Don Rogers by J.J. Cook

In Hot WaterOccupation: Sweet Pepper Police Chief

I know this is gonna sound like whining- and I hate whiners – but Sweet Pepper shouldn’t have gone outside our small town in the Smoky Mountains to hire a fire chief. We have plenty of talent right here. I would have chosen my best officer, John Trump, for the job. He’s a good man who has proven himself over and over again.

So now who do we have? A woman from Chicago who has never lived in this area and never been part of a volunteer fire department. She’s sassy, speaks her mind without much provocation, and is a general pain in the butt! Is that what we wanted?

I know – we hired her because Ben Carson wanted her. Then we found out she’s his granddaughter. Ben’s rich and owns most of Sweet Pepper. I know he expects things to be done the way he wants them. Being fire chief shouldn’t be part of that.

Now she thinks the town needs a fireboat! What next?

But what really bothers me is not knowing if I can trust her or not, you know? I’m the police chief. I need to be able to work with her. Right now, I can’t tell if she’s on my side or not. It scares me sometimes, thinking what she might do to our town. She has no respect for our traditions or our people or she’d never think a good man like Rep. Barney Falk could be involved in drug dealing.

I’d quit being police chief tomorrow rather than work with her, but I’m afraid Sweet Pepper needs me more than ever now with Chief Stella Griffin here. You mark my words – she’s trouble – and I know everyone will agree with me before it’s over.

You can read more about Don in In Hot Water, the third book in the “Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first two books in the series are That Old Flame of Mine and Playing With Fire.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on February 4 for the chance to win a copy of IN HOT WATER. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

About the authors
J.J. Cook writes award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction as themselves, Joyce and Jim Lavene, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 70 novels for Harlequin, Penguin, Amazon, and Simon and Schuster along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. Visit them at www.joyceandjimlavene.com

My Musing ~ In Hot Water by J.J. Cook

In Hot WaterIn Hot Water by J.J. Cook is the third book in the “Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, January 2014

Sweet Pepper, Tennessee, has the world’s hottest and sweetest peppers—as well as a ghost that cooks and a fire chief who fights crime. . .

Stella Griffin should be bubbling over with joy now that she’s the full-time fire chief of Sweet Pepper, except trouble is brewing on her doorstep. An angry resident has purchased her cabin, and—with a bulldozer in tow—is ready to tear it down. But as Stella worries over the fate of her home and Eric, her ghostly roommate, there’s soon an even greater cause for alarm.

A suspicious house fire in the pricey Sunset Beach community at Sweet Pepper Lake claims the life of ex-state representative Barney Falk. The nature of the death has Stella feeling out of her depth, so she teams up with the state’s arson investigator. Moving full steam ahead with the case, they must smoke out a killer before the firebug strikes again. . .

In Hot Water is the best book thus far in this endearing series. Stella has claimed Sweet Pepper as her new home and when one of the citizens is found dead amid a raging fire, repercussions abound and it’ll be up to Stella, her team and Eric to solve this puzzling case with some surprising twists one of which put a smile on my face. In this light drama, the mystery was well-executed and kept me engaged throughout and I fell once again in love with the quirky inhabitants and the town of Sweet Pepper. The author gave as good as the drama that pulled me in immediately and did a little twist at the end and now I’m so eager to read the next book which I hope comes out soon because I need to know what happens next. This was a great read and I look forward to some good times spent with Stella and her friends.

My Musing ~ Gator Bowl by J.J. Cook

Gator BowlGator Bowl by J.J. Cook is a prequel novella to the “Biscuit Bowl Food Truck” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, January 2015

After quitting her job, the first thing Zoe Chase has to do is to drive out to the swamp to see her Uncle Saul. He still has the old Airstream trailer he once used for his own restaurant many years before, and Zoe is sure she can convince him to let her make a food truck out of it.

After making the perilous journey from Mobile, Alabama into the backcountry, Zoe finds her uncle embroiled in a cook-off with his neighbor—with the life of Saul’s albino alligator, Alabaster, in the balance. Once again, the gator has eaten chickens that didn’t belong to her. So Saul and his neighbor will each prepare a meal for a church social, and if Saul wins, the gator lives.

Now it’s up to Zoe to prove herself in the kitchen and come up with something no one has seen before—the biscuit bowl!

This was an enjoyable tale and a great prequel to the Biscuit Bowl series. We meet Zoe at the beginning of her dream and get a better understanding of what drives her. On the way, we are introduced to characters that are featured in the series, such as her Uncle Saul and Ollie. It was fun how she accidentally came upon her signature dish – the biscuit bowl. A fast-paced and entertaining read in which I look forward to Fry Another Day, the next book in this delectable series.

Death on Eat Street by J.J. Cook

Death on Eat StreetDeath on Eat Street by J.J. Cook is the first book in the new “Biscuit Bowl Food Truck” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, April 2014

Zoe Chase always wanted to own her own restaurant—but first, she’ll have to serve up a heaping helping of meals on wheels, with a side of mystery.

When she’s once again passed over for a promotion at work, Zoe decides to take the big leap and go for her dream. She quits, gives up her fancy digs, and buys a fixer-upper diner in a shady part of town. To keep above water during the renovation, she buys a used food truck to serve the downtown and waterfront of Mobile, Alabama.

Zoe starts to dish out classic Southern food—but her specialty is her deep-fried biscuit bowls that blow traditional bread bowls away.

After a promising start, things start to go downhill faster than a food truck without brakes. First, someone tries to rob the cash register. Next, Zoe is threatened by the owner of a competing food truck for taking their spot. And when the owner ends up dead inside Zoe’s rolling restaurant, Zoe and her sole employee, Ollie, find themselves hopping out of the frying pan into the fryer. They need to find the real killer, before both of them get burned.

This was a very enjoyable read that introduces Zoe Chase, our spunky heroine, who left her job to start out on her own with her food truck business and along the way, becomes entangle in a murder investigation when she finds a body in her truck. I loved how the author presented this story in a style that was easy to follow. The mystery was good as it quickly became a page-turner for me. Zoe is a lovable character with a heart of gold that cares for her friends and is surrounded by an eclectic cast of characters that includes Ollie, Miguel, Delia and her parents. I look forward to more adventures with Zoe and the gang in this wonderfully terrific new series.

previously posted on the Cozy Chicks blog

Zoe Chase, Entrepreneur! by J.J. Cook

Death on Eat StreetYou know, I never really thought of myself as the entrepreneurial type. I was mostly happy at my banking job. It was what everyone wanted me to do when I got out of college. I knew I could do more, but I thought that would happen as I went along.

Inside, I always wanted to make good food for people – the way my Uncle Saul did when I was a kid. He had this wonderful restaurant in my hometown, Mobile, Alabama. Everyone ate there. He gave it up one day – walked out. Some people said it was because of a woman!

I just never thought of going into business for myself. I wasn’t even sure where to start.

Then that terrible day came when a younger man – barely out of college – took the promotion that should have been mine at the bank. I trained him! How could he be better at the job than me?

It didn’t help that I was about to turn thirty. And this wasn’t the first time I was passed up for promotion at the bank. I checked my makeup, and freshened my naturally curly hair, before I went in to demand to know why my supervisor had passed me up again.

I’ll never forget the look on his face when I asked him to stop practicing his golf swing and look at me. You’d think I was a fly on the wall. There was no real reason I was passed over, he told me. I was just better suited to train other people.

Excuse me?

I went right home that night to my cat, Crème Brulee, and told him all about it. We made some ditalini with almond pesto for dinner, and that was when I decided to quit.

Everyone is all in a dither about it, of course. I don’t care. I’m a very good cook, and I know my future is having a restaurant that will make me as famous as Paula Deen. People will come all the way from Atlanta to eat there. Wait and see!

First, I have to fix up the old diner I bought. To do that, I bought and set up an old Airstream as a food truck. My most famous invention yet – the deep fried biscuit bowl – is going to make me rich and famous!

There has been a few snags, but there always is, right? And I’ve met some great people along the way – Ollie and Delia. And now, Miguel, who is the lawyer who helped me when I was being questioned for murder.

Oh, the murder? Well, honey, that’s another story!

You can read more about Zoe in Death on Eat Street, the first book in the “Biscuit Bowl Food Truck” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Comment on this post by 6pm EST on April 6, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of DEATH ON EAT STREET. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.

Meet the author
J.J. Cook writes award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction as themselves, Joyce and Jim Lavene, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 70 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon, and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. Visit them at www.jjcook.net

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Playing With Fire by J.J. Cook

Playing With FirePlaying With Fire by J.J. Cook is the second book in the “Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, January 2014

Welcome to Sweet Pepper, Tennessee. Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s home to the hottest and sweetest peppers in the world—as well as at least one ghost and a hotbed of secrets.


Fire Chief Stella Griffin is working to solve the mysterious death of her predecessor, Eric Gamlyn—who also haunts her cabin. Yet the more she learns, the more burning questions she must answer. Just as Stella thinks she has a lead from Deputy Chum, someone snuffs her hopes—and the lawman.

Adding fuel to the fire, Stella’s parents soon arrive—with her ex-boyfriend—hoping to persuade her to return to Chicago. Now Stella is torn between the life she left behind and uncovering what happened to her ghostly friend. But she’d better think fast or more than her investigation could go up in flames.

What a great read. I was on pins and needles to see who killed Eric and I was glad when the person who I thought killed Eric did not, but was surprised at the circumstances behind the placement of his remains. I’m so happy there was closure for him. Other than that, the present-day murder had me guessing knowing that once we knew who killed Eric, we would know who killed Chum, again surprised at that one too. I really love Stella and her friends and the addition of her parents in Sweet Pepper was a bonus and I do hope we get to see more of them now that Stella has made her decision. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, especially with how this one ended, I can’t wait to see how it turns out.