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Friday, January 18, 2013

Death Turns A Trick by Julie Smith (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Julie Smith, author of Death Turns A Trick, book 1 of A Rebecca Schwartz Mystery!

Author Guest Post

Who Are Our Heroes?

These days, they all seem to have fabulous footwear. This is a high-stepping era for mystery titles like, She Done It, Shoes To Die For, Spying In High Heels, even an entire series of High Heel Mysteries. My personal favorite (though it has no overt shoes, just implied ones) is Armed And Fabulous.

Could anything better sum up the female sleuth of today? That is, a certain kind of female sleuth—the kind that’s…well, both armed AND fabulous. What I’m getting at here is that your intrepid female sleuths used to have to be one or the other, and I’m definitely not defining “fabulous” as fashion-conscious. I guess I really mean fabulously fun to be with, as much interested in clothes and dating and shopping and family and friends as in proving how tough they are.

This is because, thanks to the likes of Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, and Marcia Muller, they’ve already proved how tough they are!

What I think I’m seeing—and have been seeing for quite awhile--is a big trend towards more realistic female detectives, meaning they’re more like you and me. True, V.I. Warshawski did sport those Bruno Maglis, but, fearless and stalwart as she was, she just wasn’t the kind of babe you could imagine as your best friend. In fact, I’m not sure she was the kind of babe you could imagine at all, unless you were Sara Paretsky. With her smart mouth and air of confrontation, she was who we wanted to be, not who we were. (Or she is, I should say—V.I.’s still out there, bless her heart, still fighting crime, and so is Kinsey Millhone, still trimming her hair with nail scissors and wriggling into that all-purpose black dress. Long may they wave!)

Those characters were so refreshing when they came on the scene. So different from the tepid female sleuths of the past, so tough, so successful, so good at thinking on their feet and taking care of business. And women loved them—bought the books like brownies at a bake sale.

Editors loved them too! Before you could say “Halt or I’ll blow you away”, along came a bunch of little V.I., Kinsey, and Sharon McCone wannabes—all fun, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that a one-note song played for awhile. Just about, I guess it’s fair to say, till Stephanie Plum arrived, lovable but so bumbling she pretty much opened the detective door for all the kinds of women in between—including the girly gumshoes; the chick-y dicks. The kind that remind you of your sister Kimberly and your best friend Liz. That’s the kind of sleuth I hope Rebecca Schwartz is (the heroine of my first book, Death Turns A Trick). The kind you’d like to have a glass of wine and get down with about who you’re dating.

But here’s the twist— though this is my first book, it wasn’t written yesterday. Sue and Sara and I were all first published in the same year. Boy, was Rebecca the odd woman out! I won’t say nobody read her or that she didn’t have her own modest following, but nothing like V.I. and Kinsey! She just wasn’t an A-list kind of sleuth for her time-- she hardly ever blew anyone away and she had quite the eye for a nice pair of masculine shoulders. But now she’s back in a Kindle edition and the world’s a completely different place--I do believe she’s contemporary for the first time in her life! (Except for not having a cell phone.) Check out the cover—I think the image says it all.

About The Author

New Orleans author Julie Smith is a former journalist and the author of some 20 mysteries, including two series set in San Francisco and two in New Orleans. Her 1990 mystery, New Orleans Mourning, won the Edgar Award for Best Novel. Death Turns A Trick is the first book in the Rebecca Schwartz Mystery series.

Julie Smith ~ Death Turns A Trick ~ Virtual Book Tour Page ~ Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours

Book Review

Death Turns A Trick by Julie Smith (Book 1: A Rebecca Schwartz Mystery series)
Publisher: booksBnimble
Publication Date: August 2, 2012 / Original Publication Date: 1982
Format: eBook - 176 pages / Kindle - 314 KB
ASIN: B008S695AO
Genre: Mystery / Cozy Mystery / Chick Lit

BUY THE BOOK: Death Turns A Trick

BUY THE SERIES: Rebecca Schwartz Mysteries

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Book Description:

Rebecca Schwartz, nice Jewish lawyer with a few too many fantasies, is happily playing the piano in a whorehouse when she suddenly finds herself assigned to make sure a near-naked state senator escapes a police raid. That dirty job done, a lovely evening turns even more delightful when she’s picked up by the cops and spends the next two hours at the Hall of Justice. Could this day get any worse? Of Course! Guess who arrives home to find a dead hooker on her living room floor?

Handsome Parker Phillips, Rebecca’s new beau and the most attractive man she’s met in ages, is arrested for the murder. (Worse, she suspects he might actually have done it.)

On the plus side, another very attractive man is following the case - reporter Rob Burns of the San Francisco Chronicle, a possible ally. And there are other possibilities.

Fans of Janet Evanovich, Joan Hess, and Elizabeth Peters will get a kick out of this one.

Book Excerpt:

                                                 Chapter One

The argument was getting loud, so I played loud to drown it out. I was looking at the keyboard, I guess, or maybe staring into space, I don’t know which. Anyway, I didn’t see two uniformed cops come in the door with guns drawn. I just heard a hush and then some screams. That made me look up. I saw them and stopped playing. People in the foyer were crowding back toward the stairs. Elena Mooney was backing toward the fireplace.

“Awright, everybody quiet,” said one of the cops. “This is a raid.” Those very words.

It’s funny how you react in a situation like that. I should have been terrified. I should have had visions of lurid headlines: “Lawyer Caught in Bordello Raid.” I should have despaired of my Martindale-Hubbell rating and started planning how I was going to explain to my mother. But I didn’t. I was looking down the barrel of a gun and hearing someone say “This is a raid”—a thing I’d done a million times in movie theaters. I gripped the piano so I wouldn’t holler, “Cheezit, the cops!”

Then the lights went out. I don’t mean I fainted; I mean it got dark. A hand closed over my forearm, jerked me to my feet and started pulling. People started screaming again, and one of the cops fired. I didn’t know if anybody was hit or not, but the reality of the situation dawned on me and I offered whoever was pulling me no resistance. We bumped into a lot of people getting through the saloon room, but it took about two seconds, I guess. I vaguely heard things like “Don’t panic” and “Be quiet,” which I suppose came from the cops, and I heard two more shots and a lot more screaming.

My rescuer pulled the kitchen door open and me through it. The kitchen window had cafe curtains, and there was a little light from outside, enough to see that I was with Elena. She dropped my arm, grabbed a flashlight from the top of the refrigerator, and opened a door that I imagined led to a pantry. But I was wrong. Elena shone the light on steps descending to a basement.

She gestured for me to go first, then followed, locking the door behind us. There was a tiny landing at the bottom of the stairway and, on the right, a doorway to the basement itself. You couldn’t see into it from the stairs.

When I got to the landing, I waited for Elena to join me with the light, but she turned it off as soon as she got there. I noticed a faint glow coming from the doorway to the basement. Elena put a finger to her lips and squeezed past me into the room. I followed.

The room was unfinished, but the plasterboard was painted. The light came from a silver candelabrum on the floor, with all its black candles lighted. Attached to two beams on the far wall were manacles at ankle and shoulder level. Some scary-looking hoists and pulleys hung from ceiling beams, but I can’t say I was in a mood to examine them too closely. In fact, it’s a miracle I noticed them at all, considering what else was in the room—a brass bed with a naked man lying face up, spread-eagled on it.

His wrists were tied to the headboard and his ankles to the footboards. Even without his customary conservative suit, I recognized him. He was State Senator Calvin Handley. That same week I’d seen him on TV holding a press conference about the bill he’d just introduced to legalize prostitution. At least he wasn’t a hypocrite.

My Book Review:

Rebecca Schwartz is a twenty-eight year old feisty, Jewish feminist lawyer from San Francisco, who is also an accomplished pianist. While playing the piano in a bordello one night, she narrowly escapes a police raid only to get arrested for suspicion of driving while intoxicated when a car she borrowed slides on a rain slicked street and clips a parked car. And if that isn't enough, when Rebecca gets out of jail, she finds a dead prostitute on her living room floor, and her boyfriend is accused and arrested for the murder. It seems like wherever Rebecca goes trouble, murder and mayhem follows.

Death Turns A Trick is an entertaining and fast paced whodunit murder mystery story. Author Julie Smith weaves an intriguing tale of murder, mystery, suspense and adventure with a mixture of comedy and romance that keeps the reader turning the pages while guessing what will happen next. Written in the first person narrative, sassy Rebecca Schwartz takes the reader along for the ride as she tries to solve the prostitute's murder. The story starts with a bang and quickly gains momentum, it is full of flashbacks and surprising twists and turns that keeps the reader engaged, and has a comedic value that makes this cozy murder mystery a fun read.

Rebecca is a feisty lady who is determined to solve the murder mystery. She is stubborn and has a quick wit, her sense of humor had me snickering as I followed along on her crazy adventure. With a quirky cast of supporting characters; witty dialogues and interactions; richly detailed descriptions of the setting (San Francisco); and an entertaining storyline that takes the reader on a suspenseful adventure, Death Turns A Trick is one heck of a fun read that is written in a classic cozy murder mystery whodunit style.

Death Turns A Trick is the first book in the Rebecca Schwartz Mystery series. Originally published in 1982, the book was the author's debut novel and the storyline is reflective of that time period. It has since been re-released in eBook format on August 2, 2012.



  1. Replies
    1. Hi Samantha! Thank you for the opportunity to host the virtual book tour event. This was a fun book, I look forward to reading the other books in the series.

  2. Hi,Kathleen--thanks so much for the great review! Julie Smith

    1. Hi Julie! Thank you for the opportunity to read, review and host your virtual book tour event. Death Turns A Trick was a fun read, I loved Rebecca's character, and look forward to reading more of the series. :)