A New Cover Reveal for TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER

TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, the third full-length novel in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, originally came out in hardcover in February, 2015. Last June, we announced our deal with Harlequin’s Worldwide Mysteries to publish the book as a mass-market paperback. This edition will publish on August 1st of this year, but we recently received the brand new cover for it, which we’re happy to show you now!

I love the feel of this cover—I’ve been to Boston many times, and it totally has that Boston brownstone/Beacon Hill feel, with decidedly darker overtones and yet just a touch of the light at the end of the tunnel.

The book will be available for sale from Harlequin here soon, so stayed tuned, TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER will join Worldwide Mysteries editions of DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT and A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH this summer.

TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER is now out!

 

Whoo hoo! *throws confetti* TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER is now out! The fourth installment of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries throws Matt and Leigh into a case with strong ties to the past. The story brings not only students Kiko, Paul and Juka into the investigation, but also one of our most popular minor characters, Medical Examiner Dr. Edward Rowe, who turns out to be the perfect guide to the world of Prohibition and the Mob wars of the 1930s:

 

Prohibition was a time of clandestine excess—short skirts, drinking, dancing . . . and death. But a murder committed so many years ago still has the power to reverberate decades later with deadly consequences.

It’s a double surprise for Trooper Leigh Abbott as she investigates a cold case and discovers two murder victims in a historic nineteenth-century building. Together with forensic anthropologist Matt Lowell and medical examiner Dr. Edward Rowe, she uncovers the secrets of a long-forgotten, Prohibition-era speakeasy in the same building. But when the two victims are discovered to be relatives—their deaths separated by over eighty years—the case deepens, and suddenly the speakeasy is revealed as ground zero for a cascade of crimes through the decades. When a murder committed nearly forty years ago comes under fresh scrutiny, the team realizes that an innocent man was wrongly imprisoned and the real murderer is still at large. Now they must solve three murders spanning over eighty years if they hope to set a wronged man free.

Available in hardcover and eBook, you can find TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER on line at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, and Barnes and Noble, and in stores at Chapters/Indigo and at your local independent sellers!

For those wanting some supplemental content to accompany the book, I’ve posted a new picture gallery from my trip to Lynn in November 2013 when we were doing final finishing touches on the manuscript. Many of the real locations from the novel can be found here: /picture-gallery/lynn-massachusetts/.

And for anyone in the Southern Ontario area, we’re celebrating the book’s release on March 8, 2015 at 2pm at A Different Drummer Books at 513 Locust Street in Burlington, Ontario. Hope to see some of you there!

Photo credit: Pixietart

The History Behind TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER: Part 2– Law Enforcement in Prohibition

This week we’re continuing on with our series of posts on the background behind TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, out next week in both hardcover and eBook.  Last week we talked about the reasons for Prohibition that led to the 18th Amendment to the Constitution to the United States. This week we’re going to look at the actual legislation and the considerable challenges this legislation raised regarding enforcement. We’re also going to share a few tidbits from the novel, in this case, trivia bits that come from the chapter titles that hold some fascinating pieces of information.

The legislation behind the 18th Amendment was the Volstead Act, also called the National Prohibition Act. While the Amendment proper banned the production, storage, transportation or sale of intoxicating liquors, the Volstead act provided for its enforcement. According to the act, any beverage with greater than 0.5% alcohol was included. Of note, personal ownership of intoxicating beverages and actual consumption was not illegal.

The sudden termination of sales of alcohol through legitimate business afforded the black market and the mob a huge opportunity. These were people who had no interest in obeying the law in the first place and realized the incredible potential for commerce. The government might not allow the sale of alcohol, but the truth of the matter was that people still wanted to drink and would go to great lengths to do so. As we showed in last week’s excerpt, people were willing to roll the dice and take their chances with death for the opportunity to escape the dreary reality of their Depression-era lives. It was also a well-known ‘secret’ that many within the realms of government, the same people who legislated the Volstead Act, were not willing to cease drinking themselves. But these were people who could afford to purchase safe—but incredibly expensive, black market alcohol—and had the connections to arrange the transaction. It was the poor, scrambling to find anything to fill the gap, who died in the attempt.

Transgressions began as soon as the Volstead Act became law. The very first documented infringement occurred fifty-nine minutes after the Act became law when a train was robbed of $100,000 of ‘medicinal’ whiskey. Backdoor deals, violence, and robberies became the name of the game. Rival mobs would often try to steal from each other, and murder and crime rates soared. Gangsters like Chicago’s Al Capone first became rich on proceeds from their illegal activities and then became superstars in the public’s eye when they often used their ill-gotten gains to open soup kitchens for the starving and impoverished. A whole industry sprung up around the transport of international alcohols into the U.S. overland across borders from Canada and Mexico, and by water into any available port.

Even within law enforcement, drinking was not verboten. In the following excerpt from TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, we see that two of the crack members of the U.S. Prohibition Unit were not above enjoying the fruits of their labours:

Chapter Twelve: Izzy and Moe - a very effective team of Prohibition agents. While disguising themselves as vegetable vendors, gravediggers, streetcar conductors, fishermen, icemen, opera singers, and Democratic National Convention delegates, Isidor “Izzy” Einstein and his partner, Moe Smith, made 4,932 arrests and confiscated an estimated 5,000,000 bottles of illegal alcohol. After a busy day rousting Prohibition scofflaws, Izzy and Moe liked to sit back and enjoy their favorite beverages—beer and cocktails.

Companies also found some interesting ways to get around the letter of the law. The following excerpt illustrates an ingenuous example:

Chapter Five: Wine Bricks - a method to skirt the intent of the Eighteenth Amendment. Producing wine at home for personal consumption was not illegal during Prohibition. Wineries and vineyards dehydrated grape juice and compressed it into bricks. Buyers were reminded not to place the reconstituted juice in a cupboard for twenty days because it would ferment and turn into burgundy, sherry, claret, or some other type of wine.

It was completely legal to make up to 200 gallons of in-home wine per year, and many took advantage of that loophole in the Act.

We'll be back next week with our last post in the series as we take a look at how speakeasys became the social center for many during prohibition. But it was a mixed blessing for many:

Chapter Two: Blind Pig - an alternate name for a speakeasy. Possibly called a blind pig because the establishment turned a “blind eye” to Prohibition, or because consuming the often-contaminated illegal alcoholic beverages sold there sometimes caused blindness.

See you then!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The History Behind TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER: Part 1 – Prohibition

Throughout the month of February, we’re going to be previewing TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, which releases on February 18th in both hardcover and eBook.

The history behind the story is fascinating. While set in modern day, the case is unexpectedly thrown against the backdrop of U.S. Prohibition which took place during the 1920s and 1930s. Prohibition was not strictly an American concept—it has, in fact, been enforced in many countries from Asia, Europe, South America, and Oceania. In North America, both the U.S. and Canada had Prohibition, but, Canada’s was never a national law. Instead, provinces instituted their own short-lived laws, and Prohibition was a thing of the past for Canada by the early 1920s—just about the time the U.S. was getting started. As a result, Canada became one of the pipelines of that fulfilled black-market needs.

Since most North Americans only consider Prohibition to be an American phenomenon, and since that’s the background used for TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, that’s what we’re solely going to discuss over the next few weeks.

What is Prohibition in the larger sense? Opposed to the commonly held belief, Prohibition did not outlaw the consumption of alcohol. Instead, Prohibition made it illegal to produce, store, transport or sell alcohol to the consumer, who was then legally free to drink it.

Was it a universal law? There were exceptions to the law because alcohols were still used in some manufacturing processes (including dyes and fuels) and for religious rituals, while poisonous denatured or wood alcohol was used in scientific research.

Why was Prohibition needed? Prohibition was a concept that came out of the Temperance movement in the U.S. which began in the 1820s. In its original form, temperance promoted moderation in alcohol consumption, especially in hard spirits, and while they encouraged abstinence from alcohol (called teetotalism), it was not a requirement. But as the years progressed, the movement shifted towards total abstinence, backed by legislation as required. The movement was mostly led by women, who along with their children, had suffered at the hands of husbands who drank away their paychecks or abused their families while drunk. They also claimed that ‘demon alcohol’ was responsible for poverty and destitution, crime, and ill health.

When did Prohibition start? Several states made early attempts at legislation. Maine was the first state to ban alcohol in 1851 and it later served as a model for several other states. During the American Civil War, both the North and the South needed duty from alcohol sales to finance the war effort, so many states repealed those laws. Following, the Civil War, the temperance movement intensified, especially after the formation of the Anti-Saloon League.

How was Prohibition legislated? Prohibition became federal law in the United States in 1920, mandated by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The legislation itself was called the Volstead Act. We’ll look into that in more detail next week as we also look into law enforcement’s challenge to enforce it.

How was Prohibition ended? Despite all the good intentions that started Prohibition, it proved to be immensely unpopular and essentially impossible to enforce. On top of that, crime rates and urban violence soared as the Mob and other gangsters used the black-market to fill the gap previously filled by legal manufacturing. Corruption within law enforcement proved to be an ongoing problem that may have been the final nail in Prohibition’s coffin. According to Chicago’s Chief of Police, an estimated 60% of his officers took part in the illegal bootlegging of alcohol. As a result, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution to the United States repealed the 18th Amendment. To this day, the 18th Amendment remains the only constitutional amendment to have ever been repealed.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going highlight short snippets of TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER that illustrate some of the history we’re discussing. The following excerpt occurs when Leigh enters Matt’s lab at Boston University to find medical examiner Dr. Edward Rowe discussing the case with Matt. To the surprise of the team, Rowe turns out to be a local history buff and he becomes their guide to the 1930s:

     Leigh crossed the room toward them. “And once again, I didn’t expect to see you. You’re like a bad penny—you keep turning up,” she said to Rowe, returning his grin as he set the clavicle back into place.
     “I’m playing hooky.” Rowe raised a gloved finger to his lips. “Don’t tell.” He waggled bushy eyebrows at her and turned back to the remains.
     “Wild horses couldn’t drag it from me. Actually, I’m glad you’re here so we can pick your brain. Does the term ‘blue ruin’ mean anything to you?”
     Rowe straightened, the T-12 vertebra cupped in his left hand. “Sure does, especially if you mean in reference to the speakeasy. It’s an old slang term for what was commonly known in the twenties and thirties as ‘bathtub gin.’”
     “Bathtub gin? Isn’t that a slang term in itself?”
     “Not as much as you’d think. Bathtub gin was basically homemade booze. In its simplest, non-distilled form, it only needed a day or two to age, so you could make it and drink it fairly quickly. It’s a method called ‘cold compounding’: mix grain spirits with something for flavor, like juniper berries—thus the reference to gin—and maybe something as exotic as citrus peel if you had it, and then dilute it out by adding tap water. But they made it in such large containers, they couldn’t fit the bottle under the kitchen faucet, so they’d use the bathtub instead. Thus, ‘bathtub gin.’ If you had the equipment, you could distill this same mixture, which was much safer. If there was any methanol contamination in the mix, it evaporated first during distillation.”
     “It sounds awful.” Leigh wrinkled her nose in disgust.
     “It was awful, but it could get worse. For many, if they couldn’t get their hands on grain spirits, they used denatured alcohol.”
      Now it was Matt’s turn to wince. “That could be a death sentence.”
      “For many it was. Or you could get off lightly and just go blind.”
     “People were that desperate for alcohol they’d drink poison?” Leigh asked.
     “A lot of them didn’t know they were drinking poison. But many of them knew they were taking their chances and did it anyway. It’s hard to describe the desperation of people back then, especially during the Depression. The chance to escape the misery of their daily lives, even if only for a little while, was simply too big a temptation. The worst of it was the Feds got involved in it too.”
     “How?”
     “They knew what was going on. Distilling alcohol was illegal under the Volstead Act but it happened anyway. But because alcohol was needed for scientific research and the production of dyes and fuels, the Feds knowingly poisoned some of that alcohol to discourage it from being used for human consumption. People drank it anyway and died by the tens of thousands. And then the Feds had the nerve to label them ‘deliberate suicides.’”
     “Unbelievable,” Matt muttered.
     “Believe it.” Rowe set down the vertebra and pulled off his gloves. “It was a different time back then and the Feds had the power to do whatever they pretty much wanted.”

See you next week for our next bit of history—law enforcement during Prohibition.

Photo credit: Library of Congress

A Sneak Peek at TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER

This is our last week before we’re going to take a break here at Skeleton Keys to enjoy the holidays (and write like crazy). But before we go, we wanted to share a holiday gift with our readers. We’ve got a little teaser for you today—the first three chapters of TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, out on February 18, 2015 in hardcover and ebook formats.

If you want to read it in published format like in the book itself, you can find it here as a pdf: TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER  Chapters 1 - 3

For those that prefer to read it on the website, the entire excerpt is below. Enjoy!

And before you go today, be sure to enter the two giveaways at the bottom on this blog post. We're giving away a copy of the brand new paperback edition of DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT and an advanced reading copy of TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER. Enter both for your chance to win!

See you back on the blog on January 13th as we begin our run up to the release of TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER. From both Ann and I, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Big Publishing News for Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries!

Ann and I are thrilled to have not one, but two publishing deals to announce today!

First of all, the paperback rights for DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT have been contracted by Harlequin Worldwide Mysteries. We’re thrilled that our debut novel will now be available in three formats—hardcover, ebook, and paperback—for accessible reading no matter what your preference. Recent discussions with Harlequin indicate a moved-up release date of December 2014 to the very early part of 2015. More on that when we know more.

But our really big news is that the fourth installment in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, has been accepted for publication by Five Star Publishing, which has released all the full length novels in our series to date. Described by our editor as our best book so far, we love this book for its blend of mystery and history.

 

Publishers Marketplace recently published the two official announcements. Big thanks to agent extraordinaire Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agency for all her work on these deals:

March 3, 2014 - DEAD WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT by Jen Danna and Ann Vanderlaan 
Fiction: Mystery/Crime
Jen Danna with Ann Vanderlaan's DEAD WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, when a single human bone is found on a lonely stretch of coastline, a determined homicide detective and a reluctant scientist risk their lives when they join forces to bring a serial killer to justice, to Laura Barth at HQN Worldwide Mystery, in a nice deal, for publication in Fall 2015, by Nicole Resciniti at The Seymour Agency (NA).

March 13, 2014 - TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER by Jen Danna and Ann Vanderlaan
Fiction: Mystery/Crime
Jen Danna with Ann Vanderlaan's TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, the fourth book in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, where a body discovered in a long-forgotten speakeasy proves to be ground zero for a cascade of murders through the decades, to Deni Dietz at Five Star, in a nice deal, for publication in Spring 2015, by Nicole Resciniti at The Seymour Agency (NA).

 

TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER will be released either in March or April of 2015, so we’re pleased that this will keep the release of each installment in the series to less than a year apart. We can only write so fast because I still work full time in the research lab, but keeping the series rolling with regular release dates is very important to us.

So… what’s coming up next for Matt, Leigh and their team?

TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER

Prohibition was a time of clandestine excess—short skirts, drinking, dancing . . . and death. But a murder committed so many years ago still has the power to reverberate decades later with deadly consequences.

It’s a double surprise for Trooper Leigh Abbott as she investigates a cold case and discovers two murder victims in a historic nineteenth-century building. Together with forensic anthropologist Matt Lowell and medical examiner Dr. Edward Rowe, she uncovers the secrets of a long-forgotten, Prohibition-era speakeasy in the same building. But when the two victims are discovered to be relatives—their deaths separated by over eighty years—the case deepens, and suddenly the speakeasy is revealed as ground zero for a cascade of crimes through the decades. When a murder committed nearly forty years ago comes under fresh scrutiny, the team realizes that an innocent man was wrongly imprisoned and the real murderer is still at large. Now they must solve three murders spanning over eighty years if they hope to set a wronged man free.


A reminder to our readers that A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH will release April 18th and be available shortly thereafter. This is the third installment in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, following DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, and the e-novella, NO ONE SEES ME ‘TIL I FALL. To mark this event, next week we’re going to start a series of posts on fire investigation and forensics. Please join us for this fascinating topic.

 

 

Gone Fishing...

This glorious picture by the über talented hpaich pretty much sums up the life of leisure I'd like to be experiencing this week. But, in reality, Ann and I are in the final week of finishing up Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries #4 - TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER - so we're taking a week off from blogging to slave away on our manuscript.

But stay tuned on Wednesday of next week for a very special guest post as writing bud and fellow Seymour Agency author Marianne Harden launches her debut humorous mystery - MALICIOUS MISCHIEF.

Photo credit: hpaich