Thursday, 19 January 2023

Jennifer Chow photo credit Julie Daniels

Photo credit Julie Daniels

Jennifer J. Chow is excited to introduce readers to her latest odd-couple sleuthing team, young cousins Yale and Celine, and their adventures in Los Angeles' vibrant night market.

Author Jennifer J. Chow introduced mystery lovers to Death by Bubble Tea, the first in her series featuring Yale Yee, a young woman who finds herself reluctantly running a food stall at the local Asian night market after losing her bookstore gig. Together with her Hong Kong cousin Celine, Yale serves up delicious dishes and bubble tea with a side of sleuthing when one of their customers dies from poisoning.

Chow, who also pens young adult fiction and the Sassy Cat mysteries featuring Mimi Lee, infuses her cozy with a youthful dose of hipness and social media savvy, while still adhering to classic and enjoyable genre tropes. Death by Bubble Tea is a wonderfully vivid, clever, and well-imagined look at the world of Yee as she struggles to find her way, get along with her very different cousin, and solve a murder.

Mystery Scene's Robin Agnew spoke with the author about her writing, as well as her work as the president of Sisters in Crime, an international association for those committed to equity and inclusion in the crime-writing industry and community at large. Chow also shares with us her recipe for Chinese almond cookies (see below).

Robin Agnew for Mystery Scene: It's interesting that you began in young adult fiction. What differences are you finding between writing for young people versus writing for adults?

Jennifer Chow: What I like about writing for young adults is the newness of every situation in that life stage—and I love inspiring the upcoming generation. For adults, I enjoy exploring the complexity of today’s world and providing a welcoming community for readers within a series. (Side note: I dabbled in women’s fiction before moving on to YA stories.)

Death by Bubble Tea by Jennifer ChowYale Yee, the protagonist in your L.A. Night Market series, has a wonderful backstory. One aspect is that she’s been working at a bookstore run by some older sisters, and they have to lay her off as the book opens. Was the bookstore based on a real one? And why begin the book with a layoff?

The bookstore wasn’t based on a real store, but it has the warm ambiance of this wonderful shop near my family’s Chinese restaurant from when I was growing up. It was a reading wonderland, and I spent a lot of my waitressing tips there.

I began the story with a layoff because these are tough times. The slice of reality (the hard work of owning a business, let alone a bookstore) ground the novel.

I loved the relationship between Yale and her fancy Hong Kong cousin, Celine. There is a nice sisterly feel to it. Will that relationship continue through the books?

Yes! Yale and Celine work off each other so well. It was great to have that odd-couple dynamic—and they also complement each other when sleuthing.

How about the restaurant Yale's family owns? You mention your own family's Chinese restaurant. The whole restaurant culture in the book is a wonderful aspect of Death by Bubble Tea.

Aw, thanks. Yep, I grew up in the restaurant business. I remember starting off with tasks like peeling carrots and wrapping egg rolls. Later on, I graduated to cashiering duties and waitressing.

Being from the Midwest, I was new to the concept of a night market. Can you talk about the night market where Yale sells her bubble tea, and kind of describe the atmosphere for readers?

I fell in love with night markets while traveling in East Asia. They’re festive events that happen after dark. Basically, you have a place where you can go to relax at night (and often extending into the wee hours of morning). There are vendors who sell trinkets and handmade crafts. Sometimes there’s a game area where you can try your luck at carnival-type activities. If there’s a stage, you can find dancers, singers, and all kinds of performers. Of course, the main attraction for me is the huge array of food stalls; you can go to different vendors and eat to your heart’s delight.

Jennifer Chow's Almond CookiesI liked that this series has an urban setting and a younger vibe than many cozies do. Are cozies evolving to draw in new readers?

More cozies are coming out that resonate with younger readers, whether that’s due to the vibrant setting or the age and personality of the main character. Cozy mysteries are also pushing the boundaries with the topics and issues that are being addressed, either directly or peripherally. I’m also all for the diversity appearing in cozies, which realistically reflects the modern world.  

While the L.A. Night Market series is your latest, you really began cranking out the work in 2022, including two books in your Left Award-nominated Sassy Cat series featuring Mimi Lee. Can you talk about that series a bit?

Ah, my pandemic series. It was wild having two books out in the same year. Mimi Lee is the main character in the Sassy Cat series; she’s a pet groomer in Los Angeles and runs a shop called Hollywoof. (What else?) She partners with her telepathic and snarky cat, Marshmallow, to solve cases. I love those two characters because Mimi’s Chinese Malaysian heritage mirrors my own and because Marshmallow is such a fun character to write. The Sassy Cat series is a trilogy and currently on “paws” (pun intended) for further books.

What makes you happiest when you sit down to write every day? What’s the hardest part of writing?

Creating a new world is my happy place. I enjoy having my characters talk to me and visualizing the scenes in my head like a movie. It’s much harder for me to dig into edits, particularly if it’s the umpteenth time going through the manuscript.

Can you talk about a book that was transformational to you as a reader or as a writer?

So many, but I’ll pick three:

  • Agatha Christie—anything of hers. She hooked me as a mystery reader.
  • The Joy Luck Club. Amy Tan’s book was pivotal in helping me realize that there’s a place for Asian American authors.
  • Dale Furutani’s mysteries, particularly his samurai ones, because only when discovering them did I understand I could weave culture into mysteries.

You are president of Sisters in Crime at the moment. Can you share a bit about this wonderful organization, as well as the amount of work it takes to run such a large organization?

Sisters in Crime is an amazing nonprofit organization. We’re an inclusive and international crime writing community with over 4,500 members. We do things like give grants to emerging crime writers, offer an informational podcast, provide webinars on craft, supply cash awards to libraries and bookstores, and conduct surveys about the representation of women and diverse voices in the genre. We accomplish so much only because of dedicated volunteers, from everyone on the board to our various committees to our leaders in the local chapters.

We value all crime fiction writers and fans. Find out more and join us at  

Finally, what’s next for you?  I know there’s a book two in your Yale Yee series; will there be more after that? (I hope so!)

There’s definitely a book two in the L.A. Night Market series. Hot Pot Murder comes out in June 2023. I have more potential scenarios for the Yee cousins and am also currently exploring a new series idea. We’ll have to wait to find out what the future holds…

Jennifer J. Chow writes cozies with heart, humor, and heritage. She is the twice-nominated Lefty Award author of the Sassy Cat Mysteries. The first in the Sassy Cat series, Mimi Lee Gets a Clue, was selected as an OverDrive Recommended Read, a PopSugar Best Summer Beach Read, and one of BuzzFeed’s Top 5 Books by AAPI authors. Her new series is the L.A. Night Market Mysteries, and Death by Bubble Tea, which the New York Times called “the first in a fizzy new series,” hit the SoCal Indie Bestseller List. She currently serves as President on the national board of Sisters in Crime, blogs at, and participates in Crime Writers of Color. 

Robin AgnewRobin Agnew is a longtime Mystery Scene contributor and was the owner of Aunt Agatha's bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for 26 years. No longer a brick and mortar store, Aunt Agatha has an extensive used book collection is available at and the site is home to more of Robin's writing.

Jennifer Chow's Yale Yee Series Delivers Treachery, Tea, and Treats at the Night Market
Robin Agnew
Tuesday, 17 January 2023

Elle Cosimano photo by Powell Woulfe Photography

Photo by Powell Woulfe Photography

"If you sifted through the books in my office right now, including those I’ve written, you’d have a hard time placing me on a single shelf, and I love that."

Before I began writing humorous mysteries for adults, I was penning paranormal thrillers for teens, so it’s no surprise to me that my reading preferences straddle age ranges and span a variety of genres. As a reader, the stack of books on my nightstand is equally weighted between YA fantasies, mysterious capers, and twisty adult suspense novels.

Whether it’s a tale of self-discovery, explored through a character’s journey through their first formative experiences, or a careful unearthing of clues leading to the reveal of a culprit, it’s the discovery that has always captivated me as a reader. I’m drawn to novels that offer a slow but satisfying carving away of layers. I enjoy being along for the ride as a teen protagonist is unraveling the mystery of who they are. And I love that aha moment when their own power is revealed to them, when they realize the answer to whatever existential question they’ve been grappling with and make a conscious choice that will change the outcome of their own story. For me, it delivers the same satisfaction as the grand reveal of a crime thriller or a murder mystery, when the mask is yanked away and the bad guy finally steps out of the shadows.

In a story for any age group, in any genre, that moment of reveal should feel earned, and I gravitate toward stories that artfully craft layers of character within the plot, or the ones in which nuanced breadcrumbs are thoughtfully doled out, allowing me to make small discoveries alongside the hero. My favorite novels of all manage to do both, weaving a carefully constructed examination of a character’s formative years within the framework of a brilliant mystery or an unputdownable suspense story, like Steven Hamilton’s The Lock Artist, Megan Miranda’s All The Missing Girls, or Tana French’s The Secret Place. I balance these darker tales with lighter, more humorous ones like Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files, Darynda JonesA Bad Day for Sunshine, or Colleen Oakley’s The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise, each of which incorporates a cross-generational cast and coming-of-age themes, and all of which straddle more than one library category.

If you sifted through the books in my office right now, including those I’ve written, you’d have a hard time placing me on a single shelf, and I love that. My favorite stories (and storytellers) are the ones that defy age while bending genres.

Elle Cosimano is a USA Today bestselling author, an International Thriller Award winner, a Bram Stoker Award finalist, and an Edgar® Award nominee. Her acclaimed young adult novels include Nearly Gone, Holding Smoke, The Suffering Tree, and Seasons of the Storm. Elle’s debut novel for adults, Finlay Donovan Is Killing It, kicked off a witty, fast-paced contemporary mystery series, which was a PEOPLE Magazine Pick and was named one of New York Public Library's Best Books of 2021. In addition to writing novels for teens and adults, her essays have appeared in The Huffington Post and Time. Elle lives with her husband and two sons in Virginia.

Elle Cosimano on Discovery in Any Genre
Elle Cosimano
Thursday, 12 January 2023

2023 MWA Grand Masters Michael Connelly and Joanne FlukeWe look forward each year to Mystery Writers of America (MWA) announcing the honorees of the Grand Master, the Raven Award and the Ellery Queen Award. This is the chance to honor those who have elevated the genre through their novels or by working behind the scenes such as bookstores, organizations, critics, and publications.

MWA continues those high standards with this year’s honorees.

The 2023 Grand Masters are authors Michael Connelly and Joanne Fluke.
The 2023 Raven Award recipients are Crime Writers of Color and Eddie Muller.
The Ellery Queen Award goes to The Strand Magazine.

Each is well deserving. The awards will be presented during the 77th Annual Edgar Awards ceremony, which will be held on April 27, 2023, at the Marriott Marquis Times Square in New York City.

MWA’s Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality, according to MWA press release.

Michael Connelly is one of the most respected mystery writers—that’s my observation, not any press release. He is well liked and has a reputation of being a generous writer, helping other new authors and acknowledging fellow authors in speeches and panels. For me, he is today’s most consistently excellent writer. 

According to MWA, Connelly’s nomination, citing Bosch’s mantra from the first in the series, The Black Echo, to the present day, sums up Connelly’s approach to his craft: “Everybody counts or nobody counts,” adding “What those five words have meant to the readers of mystery fiction in the past 37 years can’t be overstated.”

MWA stated that on being notified of the honor, Connelly said, “All I can say is I’m overwhelmed. When you look at the list of previous Grand Masters you see every writer that ever inspired you. So overwhelming. I first got published 30 years ago and I remember everything about it. To think that that guy of 30 years ago would end up with this honor is really quite amazing. I am truly honored.”

Connelly is the author of 31 novels, including multiple No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. His books, which include the Harry Bosch series and Lincoln Lawyer series, have sold more than 74 million copies worldwide. Connelly is a former newspaper reporter who has won numerous awards for his journalism and his novels and is the executive producer of both Bosch TV series and The Lincoln Lawyer. He spends his time in California and Florida.

Newly named Grand Master Joanne Fluke launched her series 21 years ago with Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (2001). Since then, she has written 30 Hannah Swenson Mysteries, the most recent being 2022’s Caramel Pecan Roll Murder. The series also has been turned into five hugely successful Murder, She Baked films for the Hallmark Channel. Fluke has also written suspense, thriller, and romance novels under her own name and pseudonyms. Like Hannah Swensen, she was born and raised in a small town in rural Minnesota, but now lives in sunny Southern California.

MWA stated that on being notified of the honor, Fluke said, “I am very grateful to be mentioned in the same breath as such legends as Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen and John le Carré . . .  Speaking of breathing, I'm very glad I still am!”

As I can attest, anyone who has been at one of her book signings knows how delightful her talks are. She also almost always brings cookies, another plus!

Previous Grand Masters include Laurie R. King, Charlaine Harris, Jeffery Deaver, Barbara Neely, Martin Cruz Smith, William Link, Peter Lovesey, Walter Mosley, Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Ken Follett, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Stephen King, Ira Levin, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie, to name a few.

The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing. Personally, this may be my favorite award as I was honored with it—a career highlight.

This year, the award shared between the group Crime Writers of Color (CWoC) and Eddie Mueller, host of the Turner Classic Movies series Noir Alley and founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation.

The Crime Writers of Color is “an association of authors seeking to present a strong and united voice for members who self-identify as crime/mystery writers from traditionally underrepresented racial, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.”  

Speaking for CWoC, cofounders Gigi Pandian, Kellye Garrett, and Walter Mosley wrote, “When we first started talking about the idea that became Crime Writers of Color, we never imagined the small informal group would become such a big and thriving community in just a few years. Our goal was always to create a safe and supportive space for fellow writers of color to network and thrive. So, to know that the group is making a positive impact in the mystery community as a whole is so gratifying, and to be recognized by MWA in our fifth year is such an honor! We thank you on behalf of all our 350-plus members who are in all stages of their career."

Eddie Muller is best known as the host of the Turner Classic Movies series Noir Alley, a weekly showcase for the best of crime cinema and for his lively, erudite intros and outros to these movies, in which he always mentions writers—novelists and screenwriters both—in the conversation. At the Film Noir Foundation (FNF), which makes restoring and preserving films from around the globe a priority, Muller has personally saved many motion pictures from disappearing, among them acclaimed titles like The Prowler, written by blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, and Too Late for Tears.

Mueller told MWA that “I was completely surprised! The crime and mystery fiction community—writers, editors, booksellers, and readers—is a wonderfully warm, supportive, and generous tribe and I’m happy to have been a small part of it for the past 20 years. Having my eclectic endeavors rate a Raven—what a delightful surprise, and what an honor! I'm extremely grateful to MWA.”

Previous Raven Award recipients include Lesa Holstine, Malice Domestic, Left Coast Crime, Marilyn Stasio, The Raven Bookstore, Sisters in Crime, Kristopher Zgorski, and Oline Cogdill.

The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.” This year the award honors The Strand Magazine, a bimonthly periodical known as much for its incisive articles about the mystery world and its practitioners and penetrating interviews with top authors like James Patterson and Lee Child, as for unearthing lost short stories penned by now-dead literary greats, such as a 600-word short story by Raymond Chandler, written in the 1950s toward the end of his life, as well as the forgotten fiction of such giants as Dashiell Hammett, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and H.G. Wells.

According to MWA, when told of the Ellery Queen Award, managing editor Andrew Gulli said, “When The Strand started 25 years ago, we had no idea how big it would get. So, it’s great to see The Strand being honored with the Ellery Queen Award from Mystery Writers of America.”

Gulli added, “MWA has always felt more like a community—one in which I’ve formed strong friendships and where The Strand has found some of its best authors. As a print publication with a strong online presence, The Strand has had to continuously adapt to an ever-changing industry and being honored with the Ellery Queen Award from MWA serves as definite proof that print is not only alive but kicking! Here’s to another 25 years!”

Previous Ellery Queen Award winners include Juliet Grames, Reagan Arthur, Kelley Ragland, Linda Landrigan, Neil Nyren, Charles Ardai, and Janet Hutchings.

“Mystery Writers of America is thrilled to announce the recipients of our special awards for 2023. It’s always such a joy to recognize deserving individuals for their outstanding contributions to our genre. Michael Connelly and Joanne Fluke have contributed so much to the genre through their hard work and amazing careers, and they will continue to influence and inspire future generations of writers long after they receive their awards,” said MWA Executive Vice President Greg Herren.

“Eddie Muller’s dedication to preserving the marvelous legacy of noir and crime films by bringing classics to new generations of viewers through his work with TCM and his foundation is more than worthy of recognition,” Herren said.

“The Strand Magazine’s legacy of quality has never faltered and remains a must-read for crime fans. The impact of Crime Writers of Color, not only in crime fiction but across the board in publishing, may not be quantifiable, but can be seen at every conference, awards ceremony, and bestseller list. It’s an incredible list of honorees. We are in a golden age of crime fiction, and it’s very exciting to see.”

For more information on Mystery Writers of America, please visit the website

Photos, from top: Michael Connelly, photo by Mark DeLong; Joanne Fluke, photo by Kim Butler; CWoC, cofounders Kellye Garrett, Walter Mosley, and Gigi Pandian, photo courtesy MWA; Eddie Muller, photo courtesy MWA; Andrew Gulli, photo by Farris Gulli

Oline CogdillOline H. Cogdill is a longtime contributor to Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been a journalist for more than 25 years, and is the mystery columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

MWA Announces 2023 Grand Master, Raven, and Ellery Queen Award Recipients
Oline H Cogdill