Cozy Mystery Review: The Fog Ladies: In the Soup
The Fog Ladies: In the Soup (A San Francisco Cozy Murder Mystery)by Susan McCormick
About The Fog Ladies: In the Soup
Cozy Mystery3rd in Series
Setting — San Francisco
Publisher : Wild Rose Press (October 4, 2021)
Paperback : 328 pages
ISBN-10 : 1509237984ISBN-13 : 978-1509237982
Digital Print Length : 230 pagesASIN : B09C91H76Z
The Fog Ladies are back, in the third installment of this endearing cozy murder mystery series.
"There was a man in the soup." When the Fog Ladies volunteer at a San Francisco soup kitchen, these spunky elderly friends plus one overworked young doctor-in-training envision washing and chopping and serving. Not murder. Now the soup kitchen is doomed, and the mysteries have just begun. Was the death rooted in a long-ago grudge? Can they save the soup kitchen? Will they find the killer? Could the Fog Ladies, too, end up "in the soup"?
I'm grateful to Great Escapes tours for the chance to discover this series. Although I jumped in at book 3, I didn't feel like I was missing anything; there was enough backstory provided where needed to keep me from getting lost.
I enjoyed the story very much, in a quiet way. This isn't an edge-of-your-seat mystery, but rather a pleasant and comfortable stroll with some friends. It did take me a while to get straight and keep straight the multiple main characters, an inevitable result, I think, of having a true group protagonist. The author handles it well, though, and the Fog Ladies have very distinct personalities once you get to know them!
The mystery itself is well constructed, with a plausible outcome. I liked the way the mystery interacted with the subplots as well. Overall, a good entry in the cozy mystery category!
About Susan McCormick
Susan McCormick is a writer and doctor who lives in Seattle. She graduated from Smith College and George Washington University School of Medicine, with additional medical training in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, where she lived in an elegant apartment building much like the one in the book. Susan served as a doctor in the U.S. Army for nine years before moving to the Pacific Northwest and civilian practice as a gastroenterologist. In addition to the Fog Ladies series, she also wrote Granny Can’t Remember Me, a lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and The Antidote, a timely middle grade medical fantasy released May 2021. She lives in Seattle with her husband and two sons. She loves giant dogs and has loved an English Mastiff, Earl, and two Newfoundlands, Edward and Albert.
And now--an interview with author Susan McCormick!
When did you start writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer, or did you stumble into it later in life?
I have loved mysteries my whole life. When I was young, I wanted to be a ballerina, a doctor, and a writer. All together, all at once. My ballet days ended before they began at age four when my first performance’s curtsy took out the backdrop and crashed it to the floor. So all that was left was being a doctor and a writer. The latter took me a while. Being a doctor was a straight shot, four years of medical school, three years of residency, then fellowship, then a stint in the Army because they paid for medical school, and here I am. Being a writer took longer, though I've been plotting my stories since those ballerina days, with my first “book,” Death in the Cemetery, at age nine.
What are your books about and who is the audience?
My Fog Ladies series features spunky senior sleuths plus an overtired, overstressed young doctor-in-training, living in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco and solving murders. Cozy lovers of all ages will appreciate the humor and poignancy of the stories, and the whodunnit aspect to the murders.
What is the strangest job you’ve ever held?
My first job was as the Easter Bunny at a large shopping mall in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was fourteen and made minimum wage to give out chocolate eggs to happy children. I wish I could still do that! In college, I was a first mate on a sport fishing boat on Cape Cod. We took out groups of six for an exciting day of fishing. So many things went wrong that this will go down as my worst job ever. At least I didn’t fillet my finger into the ocean like another mate.
There's a story there! And being the Easter Bunny sounds both wonderful and awful. That leads me to my next question: What is the best thing about being a writer?
All those odd tidbits that percolate in my mind have a place to rest. As a mystery lover and writer, I am attuned to crime and murder possibilities in everyday life. The car share driver overly interested in how long I’ll be traveling? I see a set up for burglary. A cutthroat music competition that comes every four years with only one scholarship awarded? I see a mom who will do anything to help her child succeed. An arguing couple in a National Park? I see a husband who might lean too close to the edge and “fall off.” I am kind, sedate, and boring in my real life, but my imagination is full of mystery, and that is the best thing about being a writer.
My little personality test: 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 to eat the more annoying bugs that get in?
I love spiders. One thing I think is true is that you cannot relocate an indoor spider to the outdoors or it will die. I leave all spiders alone. They are my friends.
I didn't know that about indoor spiders. I'm still not that willing to house so many of them, so they're going out.
Now for my writer questions. Do you draft your books longhand or compose at the keyboard?
I compose at the keyboard, merrily typing whatever flies into my brain for the first draft, and then fix annoying plot points when I revise. But I keep paper around at all times for that perfect bit of dialogue that pops into my head at odd hours, and have scraps everywhere with a line or two or witticism or a new plot twist, etc.
Sounds a lot like my approach. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve had to research for one of your books?
Even though I am a doctor, I research every single medical tidbit I put in my books. Medicine changes rapidly, and I certainly don’t want an error. Many writers have likely researched how to determine the time of death, and I did as well. But what made this interesting for me was that I had some sound background knowledge. When I started medical school, I wanted to be a forensic pathologist, a coroner. When I did my rotation at the DC morgue, though, a crack cocaine epidemic was sweeping the city, and many bodies were victims of this, with bullet hole after bullet hole. I changed my mind about forensics as a career. But I loved the forensics book, and consult that aged tome frequently, and then verify current methods also. I was surprised to see that the time of death calculation has not changed much in all those years.
Do you use a detailed outline before you start writing, or... ?
I have progressed from being a complete “pantser” to a firm plotter with an outline. My first book poured out over many months from a story that had been building in me for years. When the very enjoyable process of writing the first draft was finished, I found there were far too few suspects. Then the grueling process started of adding in new people and turning perfectly lovely characters into suspects. Clues and red herrings had to be placed retroactively, and the story had to be re-worked many times to account for this pantser approach.
Still, without a set outline, wonderful magic happened, and characters’ lives unfolded without any planning. They did things spontaneously and surprisingly, which is how teen mother Chantrelle ends up feeding chips and Pepsi to Baby Owen, much to the horror of the Fog Ladies. Enid Carmichael discovers Starbucks lattes. She loves the bitterness, the froth. I wrote that. Then she craved more, and the next thing I knew, she was stealing Starbucks coupons from her neighbors’ newspapers to feed her addiction. She did that. Not me. As the author, I follow everywhere my characters lead me, and the story is better for it.
But, having learned the hard way with the first book, I had a rough, rough outline for the second. Still, I didn’t pay close enough attention, and in the first draft, Sarah’s friend Helen had a 16-month pregnancy. More rewriting! Now, with my third book, my outline was longer, my suspects were in place, and the clues and red herrings were lined up ahead of time. Even so, a pile of black rags in the corner unexpectedly became a dog, who ends up playing a large role in the story. The part of the brain that conceives of these twists and turns is the part of the brain that makes writing a joy.
I can related to that evolution from pantser to plotter, too! Still plenty of room for the characters to speak up, but less mess.
Finally, is there anything else you would like your readers to know about you?
I love giant dogs, the slobbery the better, and have made a dog the hero in this book.
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FTC Disclosure: I was given an electronic review copy of The Fog Ladies: In the Soupas part of a Great Escapes free blog tour, in exchange for my honest review, not for a positive 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."