Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Reluctant Amateur Sleuth

I'm trying an experiment in reaching out to other authors and introducing my blog readers to mysteries they might enjoy. So as long as I get volunteers, my Wednesday blog will feature a guest. Please welcome my guest, award-winning craft author Lois Winston. Lois has hosted me at Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers several times, and I'm delighted to return the favor. Thanks, Lois, for being my guinea pig.
The amateur sleuth mystery is a popular genre. Most of the sleuths featured in these mysteries become amateur sleuths because of their inherent curiosity and dominant Snoop Gene. To put it bluntly, they can’t keep their noses out of other people’s business. They also think they know more than the professionals assigned to ferreting out the bad guys. Some, after starring in a certain number of series books, even branch out and become professional detectives. Every amateur sleuth thinks she’s the next generation Nancy Drew or Jessica Fletcher.
Not so with Anastasia Pollack, protagonist of the eponymous Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. My amateur sleuth is decidedly reluctant. She’d like nothing better than to turn the clock back to that time not so long ago when she led a typical middle-class life with a devoted husband, two great kids, and a job she loved as the crafts editor at a women’s magazine.
Unfortunately, as documented in Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, Anastasia’s life will never again be what it was. The series opens with Anastasia discovering that her recently deceased husband led a double life. The devoted husband and father was secretly more devoted to his mistress, Lady Luck, than to his wife and kids. Before dropping dead at a roulette table in Las Vegas (when Anastasia thought he was at a sales meeting in Harrisburg, PA,) Karl Pollack gambled his family into deep debt. He also owes fifty grand to a loan shark who doesn’t care that Karl is now dead and Anastasia is penniless.
But what would an amateur sleuth mystery be without a murder? When Anastasia returns to work after the funeral, she discovers the body of the fashion editor glued to Anastasia’s desk chair. The weapon? Anastasia’s glue gun—complete with her fingerprints and no others. The police believe they have an open-and-shut case. Anastasia has to find the killer before she’s arrested for a murder she didn’t commit.
However, solving the murder is only one of her many problems. Anastasia needs to dig herself out of debt. Her husband left her with a mountain of unpaid bills, unfiled income tax returns, and drained bank accounts. In order to climb out of debt, Anastasia finds ways to moonlight in each subsequent book to whittle down that debt and find a way to pay for college for her sons.
But that’s not all. Karl also stuck Anastasia with his nasty communist mother, camped out (now permanently) in Anastasia’s home, along with Manifesto, her French bulldog. The arrival of Anastasia’s mother, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and Catherine the Great, her white Persian cat, adds another level of tension and dysfunction to the already tense household.
The one glimmer of light in Anastasia’s life becomes Zack Barnes, the photojournalist who rents the apartment above her garage. Except he might not really be a photojournalist. More and more, Anastasia suspects he really works for one of the government alphabet agencies—the ones who go off on secret missions.
And did I mention there’s a Shakespeare-quoting parrot?
If you haven’t figured it out already, these are humorous mysteries. Anastasia has been compared quite favorably to both Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum and Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon in starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews called Anastasia “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.”

There are currently four full-length Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries available in both print and as ebooks: Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, Death by Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, and the recently released Decoupage Can Be Deadly. In addition, there are two ebook-only Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mysteries: Crewel Intentions and Mosaic Mayhem. Sample chapters and buy links for all can be found on my website:
About Lois
Award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Visit Lois at, visit Emma at, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, Follow everyone on Twitter: and Pinterest:


Christine Finlayson said...

What wonderful book titles! It tells me the writing inside will be equally entertaining, and I look forward to checking out your mysteries. A reluctant sleuth, indeed.

Carolyn J. Rose said...

Putting an amateur sleuth in jeopardy - of one form or another - is a great way to raise the stakes and make that sleuth work harder to solve the crime. I tossed Barbara Reed in the Columbia River twice in No Substitute for Murder, and had the bad guy kidnap her dog in No Substitute for Money. Maybe she's a masochist, but she'll be back in January, staring down the barrel of a gun in No Substitute for Maturity.

E. F. Watkins said...

I think the reluctant amateur sleuth is a bit more believable and maybe even more likeable. S/he doesn't come off as a busybody or know-it-all. The reader can identify more with the person who gets involved, for instance, to save a friend or relative who's wrongly accused. My series character is both a reluctant sleuth and a reluctant psychic! Because she "saw" something no one else did, she is recruited to help solve the crime. The amateur sleuth needs a strong incentive to keep the story believable.


Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Christine, Carolyn, and Eileen!

Christine, I hope you enjoy the books, should you decide to read them.

Carolyn, it's always a great idea to throw lots of trouble your protagonist's way--even though it might seem like we authors are a bit sadistic in doing so! ;-)

Eileen, I agree with you. I think a reluctant amateur sleuth is much more believable. That's why I made Anastasia one. She has a reason for getting involved in all these investigations beyond just innate curiosity or nosiness.

Sally Carpenter said...

My series character, a former teen idol making a comeback, gets involved because people drop dead at his feet or he stumbles over rthe body--literally. And I love putting him in jeopardy too. I think amateur sleuths are more interesting. Police/PIs solve crimes because it's their job, but reluctant sleuth has to work harder to overcome his/her misgivings. Nice post, Lois.

Lois Winston said...

Thanks, Sally! I agree with you. I'd much rather read about an amateur sleuth than a professional in law enforcement.