Killing Two Birds with One Stone
By Lois Winston
When I began writing A Sew Deadly Cruise, the ninth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, I set myself two separate tasks. First, I thought it was high time I gave readers some additional background about Zachary Barnes, Anastasia’s love interest. Zack is introduced in Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, as Anastasia’s new tenant. A photojournalist, he’s looking to move from Manhattan to a quieter location in the suburbs where he can work in his darkroom without crazy neighbors suspecting he’s running a meth lab out of his apartment. The apartment above Anastasia’s garage provides the perfect location for him.
Almost immediately Anastasia suspects Zack’s career as a photojournalist is cover for a more covert government gig with one of the alphabet agencies. After all, when he’s not traveling back and forth to Washington, D.C., he’s flying off to questionable locations full of political and social unrest. Not to mention, he’s got a badass gun! Was he really photographing lemurs and pochards in Madagascar, or is he there for other reasons?
Of course, Zack denies he’s a spy, but wouldn’t any spy deny he’s a spy? So, is he, or isn’t he? Neither Anastasia nor my readers know at this point. Other than mentioning Zack’s brief marriage twenty years earlier, I’ve never delved further into his background. This all changes in A Sew Deadly Cruise when I finally reveal more about Zack’s history—or at least a substantial part of it.
In addition, for some time now I’ve been itching to write a locked-room mystery. A year ago, while on a cruise up to Canada with my husband—pre-pandemic—I began plotting a murder on a cruise ship, an ideal location for a locked-room mystery. However, to write a truly locked-room mystery, I needed to find a reason to keep the ship’s passengers from disembarking at any scheduled ports of call. Covid-19 hit as I was writing the book, but I certainly wasn’t going to use a pandemic or even an outbreak of norovirus, no matter how common they are on cruise ships.
How would Anastasia investigate a murder if passengers were all confined to their rooms due to illness? And really, who wants to read a humorous cozy mystery with characters suffering from gastrointestinal issues? Where’s the humor in that? Any reader with a weak stomach would be running for the porcelain throne!
I was at a point in my plot where I had to make a major decision about the story. Since I really, really wanted to keep my passengers stuck on the ship, I started hunting around the Internet for stories about stranded cruise liners, searching for a plausible excuse to keep the ship from being allowed to dock at any of its scheduled ports. Of course, I’m going to keep you in suspense, but I did find the perfect solution for keeping everyone onboard the ship but not confined to their cabins due to illness.
A Sew Deadly Cruise
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 9
Life is looking up for magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack. Newly engaged, she and photojournalist fiancé Zack Barnes are on a winter cruise with her family, compliments of a Christmas gift from her half-brother-in-law. Son Alex’s girlfriend and her father have also joined them. Shortly after boarding the ship, Anastasia is approached by a man with an unusual interest in her engagement ring. When she tells Zack of her encounter, he suggests the man might be a jewel thief scouting for his next mark. But before Anastasia can point the man out to Zack, the would-be thief approaches him, revealing his true motivation. Long-buried secrets now threaten the well-being of everyone Anastasia holds dear. And that’s before the first dead body turns up.
Craft projects included.
USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and 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.
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