Tag Archives: Judy Alter

Keisha Spills All by Judy Alter

Danger Comes HomeCome on in. You want some coffee? I just made a fresh pot. Kelly’s not here yet, so I’m taking the time to do my nails. That girl will come waltzing in here around nine after she’s made both her daughters late to school. I already been to the Grill with my José for breakfast, ‘cause he works nights. He’s the Neighborhood Police Officer for Fairmount.

I’m Keisha, Kelly’s office assistant. She plucked me right outta vocational school, and I know how she describes me—large, African-American, given to wearing caftans and muumuus, and, yes, my hair spikes change color to match my outfit. Today’s a pink day—see, even my spike heels match. Oh, don’t worry, I got flip flops under the desk for just wearing around here.

There was no job description for my so-called position, but I knew it would involve using the computer, and I don’t mind making the coffee, going to get take-out lunch sometimes, and running errands. Also I like being alone here while Kelly does her running around on one of her wild goose chases—gives me a chance to pretend I’m a real estate agent. I’ve actually made a few sales for her. Some day I’m gonna take that class and get my real estate license.

But I never bargained for some of the things Kelly has gotten me into—like living with her poor lonely mama when there was a serial killer targeting old women in our neighborhood, only Ms. Cynthia turned out not to be so lonely or at first welcoming, though now we’re soul mates.

Or escorting Kelly to the county hospital when her new husband, Mike Shandy, got busted up bad in an automobile accident—I wasn’t going to let her go there alone at night. She’s not street smart like I am, though she thinks she is. Mike used to be the Neighborhood Police Officer before José but he limps too bad to do that anymore. He’s in the Narcotics Division now.

Kelly used to buy groceries for Miss Lorna, our neighborhood recluse, but now she’s heaved that job over to me. I get along just fine with Miss Lorna ‘cause I don’t take her sass like Kelly did.

You see, I got the sixth sense. I can tell when Kelly’s in danger. José sometimes loses patience when I say we have to do something right now, like the time I made him and Kelly’s girls leave the zoo when we’d just gotten there. But if I hadn’t, Kelly’d be deep-sixed somewhere in Mexico by now and we’d never find her.

Now she’s getting all involved with this runaway girl and her abused mother and drug-dealing dad. No telling what’ll come of that—and what I’ll have to save her from, besides herself. You know, I can distinguish between when she’s just done something downright foolish and when she’s in real trouble. So far, in spite of all the protests from me and Mike Shandy, she’s just being headstrong. But danger’s gonna come home, I know that.

I wouldn’t trade my job for anything. I love my mama, but Kelly’s given me a whole new family what with her adorable daughters, Maddie and Em, and that Mike Shandy, and Ms. Cynthia and her unlikely boyfriend Otto, Theresa and Joe—he used to be a gangsta but he’s a good boy now, goin’ to college. And then there’s Claire Guthrie and her daughters—Claire lives in Kelly’s former house. We have great potluck suppers all the time—sometimes my mama comes and brings her chiffon pies. Nope, I’m settled and happy. Just got to keep that woman out of trouble so nothin’more rocks our boat.

Oh, here she comes. Now you say you want a two-story house? I’m taking down facts as fast as I can so Kelly’ll know I been doin’ more than polishing my nails and bendin’ your ear.

You can read more about Keisha in Danger Comes Home, the fourth book in the “Kelly O’Connell” mystery series. The first book in the series is Skeleton In A Dead Space .

In Danger Comes Home, daughter Maggie is hiding a runaway classmate; protégé Joe Mendez seems to be hanging out again with his former gang friends and ignoring his lovely wife, Theresa; drug dealers have moved into Kelly’s beloved Fairmount neighborhood. And amidst all this, reclusive former diva Lorna McDavid expects Kelly to do her grocery shopping. In spite of Mike’s warnings, Kelly is determined to save the runaway girl and her abused mother and find out what’s troubling Joe, even when those things lead back to the drug dealers. Before all the tangles in the neighborhood are untangled, Kelly finds herself wondering who to trust, facing drug dealers, and seeing more of death than she wants. But she also tests upscale hot dog recipes and finds a soft side to the imperious recluse, Lorna McDavid. It’s a wild ride, but she manages, always, to protect her daughters and keep Mike from worrying about her—at least not too much.

Meet the author
Judy Alter’s newest Kelly O’Connell Mystery, Danger Comes Home, launched July 22 in e-book form with print to follow. Others in the series are Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, and Trouble in a Big Box. Her second mystery series, Blue Plate Café Mysteries, launched in February with Murder at the Blue Plate Café.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

My Musing ~ Murder at the Blue Plate Café by Judy Alter

Murder Blue PlateMurder at the Blue Plate Café by Judy Alter is the first book in the new “Blue Plate Café” mystery series. Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press, February 2013

When twin sisters Kate and Donna inherit their grandmother’s restaurant, the Blue Plate Café in Wheeler, Texas, there’s immediate conflict. Donna wants to sell and use her money to establish a B & B; Kate wants to keep the Café. Thirty-two-year-old Kate leaves a Dallas career as a paralegal and a married lover to move back to Wheeler and run the café, while Donna plans her B & B and complicates her life by having an affair with her sole investor.

Kate soon learns that Wheeler is not the idyllic small town she thought it was fourteen years ago. The mayor, a woman, is power-mad and listens to no one, and the chief of the police department, newly come from Dallas, doesn’t understand small-town ways. Worst of all, blunt, outspoken Donna is not well liked by some town folk. The mayor of Wheeler becomes seriously ill after eating food from the café, delivered by Donna’s husband, and the death of another patron makes Kate even more suspicious of her grandmother’s sudden death.

When Donna’s investor is shot, all signs point to Donna, and she is arrested. Kate must defend her sister and solve the murders to keep her business open, but even Kate begins to wonder about the sister with whom she has a love-hate relationship. Gram guides Kate through it all, though Kate’s never quite sure she’s hearing Gram—and sometimes Gram’s guidance is really off the wall.

I like it. This evenly paced drama quickly became a page turner as I got caught up in the lives of Kate Chambers and her family and friends. The backdrop of the café played an important role in Kate’s determination in making a go of her new lifestyle while trying to solve the question of who killed her grandmother. The author did a good job in keeping me guessing with each clue leading closer to the truth with some surprises in store for Kate. This was a good read and I look forward to the next book in this pleasantly appealing series. Bonus recipes are included.

FTC Disclosure – I bought this book.

previously posted on the Cozy Chicks blog

Back Home With Kate Chambers by Judy Alter

Murder Blue PlateAccording to my career plan, I should be in Dallas, lead paralegal for a young, smart lawyer—did I mention he’s charming and attractive? Well, I never went there because he was happily married. My Gram raised me with standards. But I had my own condo, a Lexus I bought myself for Christmas, a 401 K, and a killer social life. Literally, it might have killed me but I was the happy party girl, always ready for a good time, always with an eye out for a good-looking new man.

So now here I am running Gram’s café in the small, one-stoplight town I grew up in. It all started the morning my ditsy twin sister called to announce bluntly, “Gram’s dead.” I went from denial to overwhelming grief, hurried back to Wheeler, and discovered that Gram didn’t keel over in the mashed potatoes, like Donna said. It was much worse, and something about it was wrong—something that had to do with turnip greens that were, as Gram said, “off”. Then, with Gram speaking for or through me, I announced I was staying to run the café and live in Gram’s house next door. Every time I considered moving back to Dallas, Gram made it clear my job in Wheeler wasn’t done. She never answered my questions, and I seem to be the only one who heard Gram’s voice from the great beyond.

These days I’m in the kitchen kneading dough for sticky buns at six-thirty in the morning, and I’m here at nine at night counting the days’ receipts. I spend my days ordering supplies and checking the deliveries, supervising staff, planning menus and trying out some dishes—unlike Gram, I will not buy chicken and tuna salads from Sam’s Club. And I meet weekly with that weird duck of an accountant Gram hired to keep the books—Gram, who always said you should do it yourself! In between all those chores, I’m trying to start a garden, so I can serve fresh scallions and lettuce on salads and so I can have herbs for cooking. And reading? No time for all those books I loaded on my Kindle. Wynona the cat is lucky to get fed before I fall into bed exhausted.

Oh, there are a couple of single men in town—Dave Millican who runs the nursery across the highway, has come over and planted herbs for me, stayed for a beer, and seems inclined toward romance if I’d let him be, but I’m not there; besides, everyone keeps warning me that he’s trouble, there’s something mysterious in his background—with the clear implication that it’s not good. And Rick Samuels, the new police chief, come straight from Dallas with no understanding of small-town life nor liking for it, is a stiff, by-the-book kind. A couple of times he’s let me see his softer side, but not enough to convince me it would come out very often.

That’s where I am—single, alone except for Donna who is no help at all and is focused on getting enough money to open a B&B while she ignores her husband and children; working my butt off at the café, while worrying about how Gram really died; fighting off the lady mayor who wants to force me into bankruptcy and buy the café at a fire sale price. Who knows why? Am I miserable? Quite the contrary. I like my new life, at least for a while and feel no desire to return to my old ways in Dallas. But won’t this get old? I hope not before I figure out what’s rotten in Wheeler, because something definitely is.

“Yes, sir, we hand batter our chicken-friend steaks. They’re not frozen. Would you like mashed potatoes, French fries, or a baked potato with that? No, sir, we don’t serve turnip greens.” Not since my Gram died after tasting some she said were off.

You can read more about Kate in MURDER AT THE BLUE PLATE CAFÉ, the first book in the “Blue Plate Café” mystery series.

Meet the author
Judy Alter, author of Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, moves now from inner-city Fort Worth to a small-town café in East Texas with Kate Chambers’ story. The Blue Plate Café series is based on a café named The Shed, in Edom, Texas, where Judy and her family enjoyed many happy meals with friends who had a ranch nearby. “I’ve never forgotten The Shed,” she says, “and now I get to go back there for a signing. I’m excited.” Murder At The Blue Plate Café will be followed by a second Blue Plate mystery in 2014, and meanwhile, more Kelly O’Connell Mysteries are headed your way.

Kelly O’Connell Mysteries now available are Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, and Trouble in a Big Box. Due out in July 2013 is Dogs, Drugs, and Death.

Retired after nearly thirty years at a small academic press, twenty of them as director, Judy Alter lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her bordoodle, Sophie, and keeps her first-grade grandson every afternoon after school. She says writing a mystery is easier than doing his math homework. She is the mother of four grown children and has seven grandchildren.

Books are available at online booksellers.

My Musing ~ Trouble in a Big Box by Judy Alter

Trouble Big BoxTrouble in a Big Box by Judy Alter is the third book in the ” Kelly O’Connell” mystery series. Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press, August 2012

Kelly O’Connell has her hands full: her husband Mike Shandy is badly injured in an automobile accident that kills a young girl, developer Tom Lattimore wants to build a big-box grocery store called Wild Things in Kelly’s beloved Fairmount neighborhood, and someone is stalking Kelly.

Tom Lattimore pressures her to support the big box, and his pressure turns to threats. Kelly activates a neighborhood coalition to fight the project and tries to find out who is stalking her and why. Mike is both powerless to stop her and physically unable to protect her and his family from Lattimore’s threats or the stalker. After their house is smoke-bombed and Kelly survives an amateur attack on her life, she comes close to an unwanted trip to Mexico from which she might never return.

In this fast-paced, action filled and suspense-fully woven drama Kelly faces many situations that involve her family, friends and personal self. A stalker and a threat to her neighborhood prompt Kelly to look for answers that incites the persons pulling the strings to wreak havoc on her home and her life. Mike and the wonderful Keisha are there to lend a hand to keep the family safe from harm. The author did a good job in keeping me on pins and needles as to what was going to happen next. Kelly is such a independent and determined characters that I’m enjoying seeing how much she has grown from the first book, surrounded by a great secondary cast. This is a great read and this series keeps getting better and I can’t wait to read the next book in this fabulous series.

A Day In the Life of Kelly O’Connell by Judy Alter

Hi! I’m running on a tight schedule—got to get my daughters Maggie and Em to elementary school on time. So far, in spite of some family crises, they’ve been on time every day, and I want to keep it that way. Come with me, and then we’ll go to my real estate office, and we can visit unless Keisha, my assistant, decides she needs to take over the conversation. She’s good at that, but she’s wonderful, a student I snatched from the Fort Worth school vocational program.

This morning Keisha justified my description, and I know you were surprised to say the least. Keisha’s African American, large—not fat, but big all over, and today she’s wearing a turquoise muumuu and turquoise sandals with her trademark spiked heels, lots of turquoise at her neck, on her wrists, in her ears. Luckily, she has not tinted her hair turquoise—the spikes are usually blonde. Keisha has the sixth sense, and she’s saved me more than once from my own folly.

I’m Kelly O’Connell, sole owner of O’Connell and Spencer Realty, a real estate firm that specializes in renovating the Craftsman houses as well as other vintage structures in historic Fairmount neighborhood in Fort Worth, Texas. Fairmount is a wonderful place to live, like living in a small town within a big city. Fifteen or twenty years ago it was a neighborhood in decline, but young professionals discovered the charming old houses and the neighborhood’s close proximity to downtown and the hospital district. An active neighborhood association oversaw the development of classy commercial areas, and now, among other things, Fairmount has one of the best dining strips in the city.

The Spencer part of my firm name is my ex-husband who was killed a few years ago—but that’s a story long since told in Skeleton in a Dead Space I married Mike Shandy, the neighborhood police officer when I met him and now a detective with the Narcotics Squad after a bad automobile crash left him unable to run fast enough to be a patrol officer (Trouble in a Big Box). Mike and I married after a close call with a serial killer nearly left me and my mom dead, and shortly thereafter, Mike adopted my girls (No Neighborhood for Old Women). The girls adore him—and so do I.

Mike says, however, that I have a real talent for trouble. I maintain that I’m looking out for my beloved neighborhood. He says I should let the police do their work and stay out of things. I argue that I would if they’d move fast enough and act on the tips I give them. I admit I have been vandalized, stalked, almost shot, almost asphyxiated, and kidnapped and kept in a dungeon-like basement. Mike reminds me of those things when he thinks I’m crossing the line into police concerns.

In spite of Mike’s irregular schedule and my brushes with disaster, we try to maintain an orderly life for the girls—homework in the afternoon, dinner at a regular time. I am no kitchen maven. Before Mike and I married, I mostly fed the girls pizza, turkey burgers from the Old Neighborhood Grill, and peanut butter-jelly sandwiches. My repertoire has grown since then. I make a cheeseburger meatloaf that Mike loves, and my beef stroganoff is pretty good. Still, there are nights when he says, “Creamed tuna again? Must have been a bad day!”

On Sunday nights, we often have a potluck supper—sometimes Mike grills, sometimes I make a ham or something, and everyone brings potato salad, cheese grits, green salad, whatever. My mom often brings extravagant Italian cream cakes—along with her companion, Otto, with whom she swears the relationship is platonic. Me, I’m not so sure about that. Anthony, my carpenter/renovator/do it all, comes with his two young sons and an ice cream cake—or bottles of wine. And Theresa, Anthony’s daughter, and her new husband Joe join us—now there’s a separate story and one yet to be completely told. Last but not least, there’s my friend Claire—we’ve rescued each other from time to time, and she’s important to me, even if Mike remains a bit skeptical about whether or not she deliberately murdered her husband.

You come join us some Sunday night. You can meet all these fascinating people I love, the people who try to keep me out of trouble. They’ve got a hard job.

An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of three books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, and Trouble in a Big Box. With Murder at the Blue Plate Café,due next February, she moves from inner city Fort Worth to small-town East Texas to create a new set of characters in a setting modeled after a restaurant that was for years one of her family’s favorites.

Before turning her attention to mystery, Judy wrote fiction and nonfiction, mostly about women of the American West, for adults and young-adult readers. Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame at the Fort Worth Public Library.

Judy is retired after almost 30 years with TCU Press, 20 of them as director. She holds a Ph.D. in English from TCU and is the mother of four grown children and the grandmother of seven.

Visit Judy at her website or her two blogs: Judy’s Stew or Potluck with Judy.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

My Musing ~ No Neighborhood for Old Women by Judy Alter

No Neighborhood for Old Women by Judy Alter is the second book in the “Kelly O’Connell” mystery series. Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press, April 2012

Claire Guthrie shoots and wounds her husband the same night that Florence Dodson, Kelly O’Connell’s former neighbor, supposedly falls down her back steps, hits her head, and dies, Kelly knows it’s murder, but she has a hard time convincing Mike Shandy. She also has a hard time explaining why she gave Claire refuge in her guest apartment. Mike is adamant that she stay out of police matters. But then, with another murder, it’s clear someone is targeting elderly women in Fairmount, and panic invades the neighborhood.

Jim Guthrie dies in an automobile accident—or was it an accident? Kelly’s real estate business plunges. Who buys a house in a neighborhood with a serial killer? And in the midst of it all, Kelly’s mom decides to move to Fort Worth from Chicago.

Will Kelly solve her differences with Mike? Will Claire be convicted of murder? Will Kelly’s mom be safe and yet not dependent on her? And most important, will Kelly be able to identify the serial killer and restore peace to her Fairmount neighborhood.

When one of the neighborhood women dies from an accidental fall, Kelly suspects something more sinister. Another death proves someone is targeting the seniors and with Kelly’s mother planning a move in the same neighborhood, Kelly is on the trail of an elusive killer and will need to find him quickly before her life is forever changed.

This was a good read filled with mystery and suspense as I didn’t know where and how it was going to end. The author did a good job with the many twists and turns presented in this drama that I could not put this book down. I like Kelly’s determination in her dogged pursuit of a killer hiding among the residents of her small town. With an ensemble cast that includes strong-willed Keisha, her cop boyfriend Mike, her two daughters and her mother, this was a nicely written whodunit and I especially love the internal dialogue that Kelly has with herself. I look forward to reading the next book in this wonderful series.

My Musing ~ Skeleton in a Dead Space by Judy Alter

Skeleton in a Dead Space by Judy Alter is the first book in the “Kelly O’Connell” mystery series. Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press, August 2011

Kelly O’Connell never thought real estate was a dangerous profession, until she stumbled over a skeleton in a dead space in an early-twentieth-century Craftsman house she was transforming into a coveted modern home in an older urban neighborhood in Fort Worth, Texas.

From that moment, she runs into teen-age gang members, a manipulative ex-husband, a needy and single pregnant friend, a cold-blooded murderer, and a policeman who wants to be more than her protector. As free-spirited as the chocolate-peanut-jalapeño candy she craves, Kelly barges through life trying to keep from angering her policeman-boyfriend, protect her two young daughters, pacify her worried mother a thousand miles away, and keep her real estate business afloat. Too often she puts herself in danger, and sometimes it’s the girls, not Mike, who come to Kelly’s rescue.

All Kelly wanted to do was finish the house she was renovating, but instead she got a dead skeleton and threats against her family. What a great read that I could not put down. The author had me quickly turning the pages in this suspenseful who-dun-it and the many twists and turns kept the plot moving towards a rewarding conclusion. With a comfortable tone, lovable and quirky characters, great conversation, especially the internal dialogue that Kelly has with herself, and a hint of romance, this was an enjoyable debut and I look forward to the next book in this wonderful new series.