Cozy Review & Interview: Three Strikes, You're Dead

Title: Three Strikes, You're Dead (Eddie Shoes #3)
Author: Elena Hartwell
Publisher: Camel Press (April 1, 2018)  Paperback: 288 pages
Source: Great Escapes tours ARC
ISBN-13: 978-1603817271
Digital 13: 9781603817288

Publisher's Blurb:
Private investigator Eddie Shoes heads to a resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, for a mother-daughter getaway weekend. Eddie’s mother Chava wants to celebrate her new job at a casino by footing the bill for the two of them, and who is Eddie to say no?

On the first morning, Eddie goes on an easy solo hike, and a few hours later, stumbles upon a makeshift campsite and a gravely injured man. A forest fire breaks out and she struggles to save him before the flames overcome them both. Before succumbing to his injuries, the man hands her a valuable rosary. He tells her his daughter is missing and begs for her help. Is Eddie now working for a dead man?

Barely escaping the fire, Eddie wakes in the hospital to find both her parents have arrived on the scene. Will Eddie’s card-counting mother and mob-connected father help or hinder the investigation? The police search in vain for a body. How will Eddie find the missing girl with only Eddie’s memory of the man’s face and a photo of his daughter to go on?

My Review: 
This third volume of the Eddie Shoes mystery series more than lives up to the standard set by the first two (One Dead, Two to Go and Two Heads Are Deader Than One). Right from the beginning we see the relationship between Eddie and Chava (a.k.a. “Mom,” a word Eddie is gradually learning to use) developing and maturing as they find themselves more able to enjoy each other without trying to change each other. But lest the relationships be all the book is about, we also dive quickly into a hair-raising bit of adventure and a murder.

The change of setting (from Bellingham to a resort on the other side of the Cascades, by chance very near the area where we backpacked last summer!) made me think that we’d not be making much progress on the issues with either Eddie’s father, Eduardo, or her former lover Chance, but I should have known better. Eduardo shows up when Eddie gets herself into trouble, and the trio (Eddie, Chava, and Eduardo) make a great team, one I hope we will get to see more of. Each has his or her own strengths, and the tensions among the three are deftly written and believably managed.

On a side note, I appreciated that Eddie didn’t do a complete idiot when she went off to go for a hike. She clearly demonstrated she’s a novice, but she took food and water, and even a little extra clothing, and tried to let someone know where she was going. More importantly, she is aware of her mistakes as one thing leads to another and she finds herself lost in the woods. Frankly, I think any of us might have had similar troubles if fleeing from a fast-moving fire. Kudos to Ms. Hartwell for not having her be totally stupid and getting away with it. (Just a personal issue here, since I really hate it when stories have people doing either totally stupid things in the woods, or totally unrealistic ones--yes! Our hero hiked 47 miles in 3 hours to rescue the puppy!).

The main focus of the book is the complex relations between Eddie, Chava, and Eduardo, but the romantic at heart will be glad to hear that Chance is not forgotten. I, for one, eagerly await Book 4 to find out more about how all the connections work out, as Eddie is learning to open herself up and let other people matter to her at last.

And what about the mystery itself? That definitely took me places I didn't expect to go. I don't want to give anything away, so no specifics, but let's just say that I had it all figured out and was totally wrong. Clues are dropped in the right amounts and right places, and the careful reader *may* avoid going wrong where I did.

My Recommendation:
This is a series for any fans of the cozy-but-not-too-cozy mystery. You won't find recipes and heavy romance here, just some fascinating characters with a lot to work on, all the while they are solving a nasty sort of murder and taking a hard look at some realities of our society. I recommend it to anyone who likes Nevada Barr and Dana Stabenow (especially the earlier works of those writers), or Rhys Bowen's "Royal Spyness" series.

About the Author:
After twenty years in the theater, Elena Hartwell turned her dramatic skills to fiction. Her first novel, One Dead, Two to Go introduces Eddie Shoes, private eye. Called “the most fun detective since Richard Castle stumbled into the 12th precinct,” by author Peter Clines, I’DTale Magazine stated, “this quirky combination of a mother-daughter reunion turned crime-fighting duo will captivate readers.”

In addition to her work as a novelist, Elena teaches playwriting at Bellevue College and tours the country to lead writing workshops.
When she’s not writing or teaching, her favorite place to be is at the farm with her horses, Jasper and Radar, or at her home, on the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River in North Bend, Washington, with her husband, their dog, Polar, and their trio of cats, Jackson, Coal Train, and Luna, aka, “the other cat upstairs.” Elena holds a B.A. from the University of San Diego, a M.Ed. from the University of Washington, Tacoma, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

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Purchase Links
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And now,  a real treat--author Elena Hartwell dropped by for an interview.
NL: When did you start writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer, or did you stumble into it later in life?
EH: I have always been a writer. What I stumbled on later in life was to be a novelist. I started out writing stories as a kid, as far back as I can remember, but in college I got interested in theater and spent twenty years working as a playwright, director, designer, technician, and educator. All along, however, I knew I wanted to write a novel. I wrote my first manuscript back in 2007. It had promise, but it also had a lot of problems. I went on to write a few more manuscripts, until my fourth, the first of the Eddie Shoes series, landed a book deal with my current press. I learned a lot on those practice manuscripts and a lot more writing three books for a series. I'm still stumbling around, but I'm definitely doing what I want.

NL:  Bellingham is pretty close to where I set my own mysteries. What made you choose that town?
I wanted to locate the series in a Western Washington town, but I didn't want to use Seattle. Though I've lived in and around Seattle for over twenty years, it felt "iconic" to me. People believe they "know" Seattle through music or film or television, I wanted a community with more mystique. Bellingham is a fabulous place to set a mystery series. It's on the water, close to the border, has great architecture and a youthful feel with Western Washington University on the hill above downtown. It only has about one murder a year, however, so before I turned it into the Cabot Cove of the Pacific Northwest, I sent Eddie and her mother, Chava, on vacation for book three. I now live in North Bend, the little town off I-90 where Twin Peaks was filmed. My town might just show up in future novels.

NL: Great reasons for choosing the town! I had no idea the murder rate was so low there. For the next question, we'll move on to technique:  do you draft your books longhand or compose at the keyboard?
I write the first draft on the computer. Then I start rewriting. Once I have a solid first draft, I print it out and do notes and edits in longhand on the printout. I see many different things on a hard copy than I do on a computer screen. If I have a longer scene to write or add, I write it out on the back of the pages, and type it in when I go back to the computer. 

NL: That's a lot like my process. I wonder if the younger generation is more comfortable doing the whole thing on screen. Do you use a detailed outline before you start writing, or... ?
I like to say I'm an "organic" writer. I do not outline, but I have thought a lot about characters, events, even specific scenes, before I start to write. I write what I've already imagined, and let that process bring me to what happens next. I often write the beginning, then the end, then the middle. Once in awhile I outline after I've written a first draft, as a way to see where I might have holes in my plot or scenes in the wrong order.

NL: That just goes to prove my feeling that everyone has a process that works for them! I can see where getting the beginning and end nailed down could make it easier to write the middle, though.

In your opinion, what is the best thing about being a writer?
Doing interviews :-). Besides that, I love having a creative life, where I'm constantly surprised by what happens on the page. I also love working from home and getting to hang out with my animals all day. And my husband, my animals and my husband.

NL: Don't forget wearing sweats to work :) 
Writing mysteries can lead to looking up all sorts of odd things. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve had to research for one of your books?
This is such a great question. I look up a lot of basic murder mystery stuff - blood spatter patterns, poisons that don't leave traces, types of handguns. I've also looked up random things, like interior colors on a specific car, make and model. I recently researched if any FBI agents had gotten arrested for breaking the law, that was interesting, if not exactly weird. I will tell you, my favorite type of research is to interview experts. One of the coolest experiences I had with that was doing research on firefighting. I got to ride in a firetruck on a call - helmet, headset, the whole deal. Total, childhood dream. Plus, I got to hang out with cute fire fighters.  

NL: Well, that's a good advertisement for research! And my final question... If there’s a spider in the corner of the room, do you a) panic, b) have to drop everything until it is removed, or c) hope it’s planning on eating the more annoying bugs that get in? 
I'm going to go with d) I quickly get a cup, which I gently place over the spider. Then I slide a piece of paper under that and carry the spider outside before my dog, cat, or husband can come and kill it.

By the way, I love your blog - I looked through many of your backpacking photos. I backpacked and camped in a lot of those places, especially when I was younger. Makes me want to get back to Evolution Valley.
Thanks for having me!

Thanks for coming by, Elena, and for your kind words about the blog! I suspected you had some experience hiking and backpacking, by the way you treated Eddie's little adventure in the woods. Hope you get to head out and do some more! (And I love North Bend, too. My Seattle roots are showing!).

Check out some of the other stops on the tour and see what other bloggers are saying about the book!

April 1 – 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, &, Sissy, Too! – REVIEW, GIVEAWAY
April 1 – Island Confidential – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
April 3 – Socrates’ Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
April 3 – Mysteries with Character – GUEST POST
April 4 – Books Direct – GUEST POST, GIVEAWAY
April 5 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – INTERVIEW
April 6 – Readeropolis – SPOTLIGHT
April 6 – Ruff Drafts – GUEST POST
April 7 – A Blue Million Books – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
April 8 – Cozy Up With Kathy – CHARACTER GUEST POST
April 11 – The Ninja Librarian – REVIEW, INTERVIEW
April 12 – Texas Book-aholic – REVIEW
April 12 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST
April 13 – Maureen’s Musings – REVIEW
April 14 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW, INTERVIEW
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FTC Disclosure: I received an ARC of Three Strikes, You're Dead through Great Escapes Free Book Tours, and received nothing further from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."   

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018 


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