A New Beer Mystery: Murder by the Barrel by Lesley Cookman

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When the sleepy village of Steeple Martin announces its first beer festival, the locals are excited. Beer, sun and music, what could possibly go wrong?

Beer, sun and music, what could possibly go wrong? But when an unexpected death shakes the village, it’s up to Libby Sarjeant to solve the puzzle. Was it just another rock star death or is there something more sinister afoot?


Lesley, welcome to Island Confidential!  Can you tell us a little about the protagonist of Murder by the Barrel? 

Libby Sarjeant is the eponymous protagonist of my series. She is a middle aged, nosy woman who, after the break up of her marriage moved to a village house in Kent (UK) found for her by some friends. She now lives with her partner, Ben Wilde and helps run the Oast Theatre in the village, Steeple Martin.

How alike are you and Libby?  

I think there’s a fair amount of me in Libby – and certainly my nearest and dearest are certain there is!

Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

They’ve certainly evolved. Their lives have changed in the same way as my real life friends’ lives have, and my regular readers love them. They can often tell me of a fact about a character when I’ve forgotten it.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean? 

No! Although I have put someone who REALLY annoys me in a book, albeit with a sex-change. Funny thing was, people who read it afterwards who knew the real person recognised her immediately. I hope she didn’t…

How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

My village is imaginary, but very much based in fact. It is in a recognisable part of the county, and I have a map of the whole area on my office wall, with all the main roads, villages and the nearest small town, of which I also have a map on my desk! The pictorial map of my village, Steeple Martin, appears in every book and is on my website.

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the characters?

I have no idea! This is regularly discussed on my Facebook page, and readers all have their own pictures of the Libby and the rest of the characters, so I would be loathe to upset those visions! I can see them all in my head, and there’s only one who looks remotely like an actor, and that’s Libby’s partner Ben, who looks uncannily like the actor Paul Freeman!

What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

Write what you know. Yes, of course, to a degree, but honestly – how many of us crime writers have actually committed a murder? How many authors have been to Alpha Centauri? Or a school for magicians? These days, we can research most things online, or find the resources to do so. And the best advice? Read a lot! Not that I needed telling – I’ve been reading a lot all my life!

About The Author  

Lesley started writing almost as soon as she could read, and filled many exercise books with pony stories until she was old enough to go out with boys. Since she’s been grown up, following a varied career as a model, air stewardess and disc jockey, she’s written short fiction and features for a variety of magazines, achieved an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Wales, taught writing for both Kent Adult Education and the WEA and edited the first Sexy Shorts collection of short stories from Accent Press in aid of the Breast Cancer Campaign.

The Libby Sarjeant series is published by Accent Press, who also publish her book, How to Write a Pantomime, with a foreword by Roy Hudd.   Lesley is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association.

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Review and Spotlight: An Act of Murder

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Introducing a new campus cozy series!

In the sleepy college town of Copper Bluff, South Dakota, English professor Emmeline Prather is enjoying the start of a new semester. But when one of her students dies working on the fall musical, it disrupts life on the small, quiet campus. Although the police rule the death accidental, Prof. Prather has good reason to suspect foul play.

Unmasking the murderer proves much more challenging than finding dangling participles, so Em recruits fellow English professor Lenny Jenkins for assistance. Together, they comb the campus and vicinity for clues, risking their reputations and possibly their jobs. After an intruder breaks into Em’s house, Lenny advises caution–and perhaps a change of address. Em, on the other hand, is all the more determined to forge ahead, convinced they’re on the brink of an important breakthrough.


I got a kick out of quirky English professor Emmeline Prather, who is just bloody-minded enough to continue to investigate a mysterious death on campus, against the advice of…well, just about everyone.  Professor Prather sees the world a little differently, which helps her to gather clues, but also places her in harm’s way. She will barge into the students’ living quarters and confidently interrogate the victim’s hapless roommate, but then find herself resentfully tongue-tied in the presence of a passive-aggressive colleague. She doesn’t stumble into a solution as much as she finds her own circuitous way to it, keeping in step to her own drummer the whole time. Prather is a sympathetic and entertaining protagonist, and the little college town of Copper Bluff, South Dakota is beautifully drawn. Mary Angela does a wonderful job at portraying small-town academia, and I am looking forward to Emmeline Prather’s next adventure.


About The Author  

Like her protagonist in the Professor Prather mystery series, Mary Angela lives on the Great Plains and teaches college writing and literature. When she’s not grading papers (when is she not grading papers?), she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. She and her husband have two amazing daughters, one adorable dog, and a cat who would rather not be limited by an adjective. For more information, go to www.maryangelabooks.com.


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Interview: Tangled Up in Brew author Joyce Tremel

Another intoxicating mystery featuring brew pub owner Maxine “Max” O’Hara—from the author of ToBrew or Not to Brew.


Brew pub owner Maxine “Max” O’Hara and her chef/boyfriend, Jake Lambert, are excited to be participating in the Three Rivers Brews and Burgers Festival. Max hopes to win the coveted Golden Stein for best craft beer—but even if she doesn’t, the festival will be great publicity for her Allegheny Brew House.

Or will it? When notoriously nasty food and beverage critic Reginald Mobley is drafted as a last-minute replacement judge, Max dreads a punishing review. Her fears are confirmed when Mobley literally spits out her beer, but things get even worse when the cranky critic drops dead right after trying one of Jake’s burgers. Now an ambitious new police detective is determined to pin Mobley’s murder on Max and Jake, who must pore over the clues to protect their freedom and reputations—and to find the self-appointed judge, jury, and executioner.


Q: Aloha, Joyce, and welcome to Island Confidential. Can you tell us about your protagonist, Max? 


A:  Maxine “Max” O’Hara is a certified brewmaster who recently opened a brewpub in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh. She is from a large Irish Catholic family—she has five older brothers, and the oldest is a priest. Her dad is a homicide detective for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, and her mom is a homemaker.

Q: How much do you and Max have in common?  How would you feel about her if you met her in real life?

A:  Other than the fact that we’re both Catholic, Max is entirely a figment of my imagination. If I met her, I think I’d like her a lot. She’s spunky, kind, and tends to look for the best in people.

Q: Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

A:  They do. Max becomes more sure of herself, and also more sure of her relationship with Jake, her boyfriend/chef. Supporting characters evolve as well—even the detective she butts heads with in Tangled Up in Brew eventually “sees the light.” And in the third book that will be out next year at this time, the readers will see bakery owner Candy’s story come full circle.

Q: Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean? 

A:  Ha, ha, ha! Um. Yeah. That’s all I’m going to say, lol.

Q: How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

A: The Brewing Trouble series is set in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, which is a real place. What I did, though, was invent an entire block of Butler Street (a real street) and plop it right down in the middle. It gave me a little leeway to invent fictional shops and restaurants, but anyone who is familiar with Pittsburgh could picture where they’d be.

Q: When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

A:  Oh, that’s a tough one. I imagined Max to look a little bit like a younger Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White in Once Upon a Time). And Jake—maybe Adam Levine (without the tattoos)? I did a Google search and most of the male actors are too “pretty.” I think I’ll leave it up to the readers. Any suggestions?


Q: What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

A:  I think “Write what you know” is bad advice. If I only wrote what I knew it would be an awfully boring book. “Write what you love” or “Write what you’d like to know” is much better advice. If you love it, it will show. And just about anything can be researched. I didn’t know anything about brewing beer when I proposed this series. The research has been fun!


About The Author  

Joyce Tremel was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail. She is a native Pittsburgher and lives in a suburb of the city with her husband and a spoiled cat.

Her debut mystery, To Brew Or Not To Brew has been nominated for the 2015 Reviewers’ Choice award for best amateur sleuth by RT Book Reviews. TTangled Up In Brew is her second book.

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