Tuesday, February 14, 2023

With a Twist by Cathi Stoler

Scott's Note: Today Cathi Stoler guest blogs.  Cathi is a fellow New Yorker who I've done a number of Noir at the Bars with, and she's one of the most prolific mystery writers I know. Today she talks about her newest book, With a Twist, the fourth book in her Murder on the Rocks series.


by Cathi Stoler

I’m the kind of person who believes a change of scenery will do you good. Traveling to new countries and cities, interacting with interesting people, and experiencing a variety of cultures and cuisines are enticing and exciting.

But for Jude Dillane, my protagonist in my Murder On The Rocks Mystery series, not so much. Jude rarely leaves her East Village neighborhood, where she owns The Corner Lounge on Tenth Street and Avenue B. She has everything she needs right there: her boyfriend Eric Ramirez, her friend and landlord Thomas ‘Sully’ Sullivan, her customers, and her cozy apartment above The Lounge in a beautiful Beaux-Arts building.

Born and bred in New York City, Jude’s faced a lot of adversity in her life and has finally found a place where she feels at home. Her neighborhood is her comfort zone, and she doesn’t like to venture too far from her bar. 

In the first book in the series, Bar None, Jude travels to the Bronx, a borough away, and reluctantly goes undercover at the Big City Food Bank to solve a murder. In books two and three, Last Call, and Straight Up, Jude pursues and is almost killed by the New Year’s Eve Serial Killer, who’s been living and operating in her Lower East Side neighborhood for years, proving the theory that trouble can find you wherever you are. Even close to home.

Setting is very important to my stories. I think of it as the element that brings plot, characters, voice, and action together while giving the reader a true sense of place. The Lower East side is rich in history and character, which I wanted to share. There’s a lot to see and do there and I hoped whoever was reading my stories would see it through my words. 

But for book four in the series, With a Twist, I felt that Jude and my readers needed a change of scenery and a new setting, so I sent her on a cruise, a very exclusive and luxurious one on a small, but magnificent ship, The Allure. As opposite from the Lower East Side, as you can get, this was a Mediterranean cruise to die for.

When her boyfriend, Eric Ramirez, offers her this trip, which he received from a grateful business client, she initially refuses. As tempting as Spain, Italy, and Greece sound, they are not the Lower East Side, she points out to him. Eric finally persuades her to go and when she tells her employees about the voyage, they react with surprise that she’d actually leave The Lounge, even for just ten days.

When Jude and Eric reach The Allure, the newest ship in the Wanderlust Cruise line fleet, things begin to look up, especially when she meets her old college friend, Monica Delmar, the Director of Passenger Services. It’s luxury all the way, from the spacious suite to the fabulous food and drinks, to the number of passengers—a mere two hundred and fifty. Two ports-of-call on The Allure include Barcelona and Rome. I wanted to portray these beautiful cities with as much life, excitement, and energy as the lower East Side. Barcelona is a magnificent city with spacious plazas and gorgeous buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi. And Rome, with its ancient buildings and rich history, captivates from the first glance. At least, I hope my reader thinks so.

Once onboard The Allure, Jude finally begins to relax, but the good feeling doesn’t last for long.  An unfortunate dinner with the obnoxious Captain Brigman, who somehow knows about Jude’s unfortunate history with a serial killer, is just the beginning. When Monica discovers the body of the assistant purser, Jamie McFarland, lying in a pool of blood, everything changes. Jude’s romantic getaway quickly becomes complicated by a murder that may be tied to an international gang of jewel thieves.

Monica, who is under suspicion, asks for Jude’s help and she agrees. As Jude works to unravel the mystery and identify the killer, and the leader of the jewelry theft ring, her own life is put in danger. She knows she has to figure out who’s responsible for turning this opulent cruise into a death trap. Are the theft of a valuable diamond ring and the discovery of a cryptic notebook related? Jude makes waves as she looks into everyone, from Monica’s close friend, Chief Officer Damian Carstairs, to the ship’s photographer to a smarmy casino host, to discover who is responsible for the crimes.

Complicating matters even more, in Barcelona, Jude recognizes someone from home, Tony Napoli, her old friend, and protector, a former undercover cop who’s fled the country to protect the woman he loves from going to jail. Torn between her loyalty to Tony and her sense of duty, Jude goes to the American Embassy to report seeing Tony.

All this happening outside her comfort zone is quite a departure for Jude. It’s definitely a change of scenery, and Jude faces it with the determination and snarky attitude readers have come to know and love. 


With a Twist, a Murder on the Rocks Mystery, is out now and you can get it here. 

Cathi Stoler is an Amazon Best-Selling author and Derringer winner. The four novels in her Murder On the Rocks Series, Bar NoneLast CallStraight Up, and With a Twist feature Corner Lounge Bar Owner, Jude Dillane. Other books include the Nick Donahue Adventures, and the Laurel and Helen New York Mysteries. Cathi is a member of SinC, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. Find Cathi at: www.cathistoler.com, or email her at: cathi@cathistoler.com.

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