A belated Happy 4th to all my U.S. friends and readers! There’s a reason for mentioning that a month too late – you see, my latest Rosie Hart adventure was set with July 4th as a background. And as I created a fun celebration, I once more so envied that little town of Airlie Falls and their close-knit community. How much fun would it be to live there… Sigh…
So, about this story: I was quite young when I first saw Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder – maybe too young – because it terrified me. Few would argue over Hitchcock’s ability to provide suspense – certainly not me, the proof being the fact that the story has stayed with me for all those years. I can still see Grace Kelly in that low-lit bedroom…
Suspense and terror aside, as I grew older, I came to appreciate the story-line, and it was basically from that idea my own story was born. My series, the Hart of Texas Murder Mysteries, is way more light-hearted than anything Hitch would present, yet right from the start I had a title in my head, my spoof of the original – Dial M for Mud Cake – hoping I could find the story it represented.
It took six books, but in this last, the 6th, I found it – and was enormous fun to create. And every day I opened that manuscript it made me smile. Of course, in the way things should go, my story bears little resemblance to Hitchcock’s story other than a telephone call and an order for murder. Basically, that’s where Hitch and I parted ways. However, it was those two things that led to the creation of a scene I had so much fun with – and will share in a moment.
Despite the fun, it wasn’t all straightforward. I knew I wanted my poor heroine Rosie, to be confused by the strange order for the mud cake. After all, as a baker, that would usually be a straightforward event for her. But that’s also when my usual modus operandi went off script. You see, normally, Rosie would be hunting down a murderer, often trying to clear the name of someone close to her.
This time there was no body, just someone who mistakenly thought Rosie to be a professional assassin who required the words Mud Cake as code for the hit. So, for Rosie – and myself – everything was upside down. Rosie wasn’t, at first, searching for a murderer, but a potential victim. A stranger. Not seeking justice for a dead person but trying to keep someone alive! To make it worse, I added a ticking clock. The deed had to be completed by the 4th of July, or matters would be taken into other hands. Rosie couldn’t let that happen. While ever that customer thought she was the assassin, the victim had a chance of survival.
And all this while helping to plan and execute the town’s extravagant plans for the Independence Day celebrations, try to curb the wild and ridiculous spending of the Fab Four who have discovered the home shopping channels (because surely nonagenarians wouldn’t really need a three-man tent and a bucking bronco – and that was just for starters!), as well as – you guessed it, also trying to prove her suspicion that the murder of an elderly heiress is connected to her own misguided cake order.
But let’s go back to that first phone call. Keep in mind that Rosie thinks this is a regular—if slightly odd—order for a mud cake.
Waving away Miz Lipskie’s warning whisper, I strode into the airy study just off the foyer. The voice on the other end wasn’t what I’d expected. It was low and muffled, and I’d barely said hello before the order came through—just as Miz Lipskie had said.
“I want to order a mud cake.”
“Yes sir, we’d be delighted to help you.” Actually, I was taking Miz Lipskie’s word for it that it was a male because the voice was so stifled it was hard for me to tell the exact gender. Still, she’d spoken to him several times and apparently been barked at, so obviously she knew.
There was a long pause before he replied. “We? I thought you worked alone?”
“Well, I do, but I have an assistant who helps me in the day-to-day running of the business.”
“Sheesh! Everyone’s a corporation these days! Even you people!” I was about to let that pass when he threw in his next comment. “Your number was passed on. What? You got a club or something? What’s with two of you working the same area? I thought you guys were pretty hard to find!”
I accepted the guy’s reference as a gender inclusive description, but frowned over the comment. “Two of us? Two bakers?”
The response was a low chuckle. “Sure, if that’s what you want to call yourselves. No skin off my nose. I just want the job done.”
He had a funny way of expressing himself that I found confusing but I did understand he wanted cake and that was something I could deliver. “I can do that. Now if I could just have some details? I ne—”
“Just the basics, right? I was told you’d only require the basics.”
“Well, I guess if you consider name and address, and your requirements to be basics, then I guess that’s what we do.” What was with this man? “But how about we start with the cake. Like, do you want chocolate mud? Caramel mud? Strawberry mud? White chocolate mud?”
“I thought you’d just do the job! What’s with the twenty questions?” He sighed. “So what? What’s your most popular? Simplest? I want that.”
“Chocolate. Now sir, what about cream? Do you want fresh or—?”
“Fresh? Hey, hey, stop right there! I don’t want the details, right? That other broad told me you were the best, so I figured you’d just get on with it. Geez—I got a weak stomach.”
This was the craziest order I’d ever taken. He was upset by cream? “Lactose problem?”
The response was a roar of laughter. “Hey, you got a sense of humor! I like that!” The laughter turned into a coughing fit and I waited it through, wondering why I had the feeling it wasn’t genuine. “Just no mess, okay? I don’t like mess. Now, I was told you’d do it for ten. Is that right?”
“Um, I’d usually charge fifteen for a layered cake, there’s a—”
“Fifteen! Where am I supposed to get that kind of money?”
I didn’t actually hear a phone slam down, but I kind of sensed it. One moment he was there, and the next he wasn’t and I was left with a dead line. What in heavens…?
When I turned, Miz Lipskie stood in the doorway, arms folded and wearing an I-told-you-so expression. “Tell me I’m not the only one who thinks that man is a bit strange!”
“No, Miz Lipskie,” I began slowly, my mind whirling, “I don’t think you are.”
I had such fun with this and subsequent scenes with this mysterious caller. And imagine Rosie’s shock when she, later, finally understands that he’s not just quibbling over $5, he thinks it’s an extra $5000. $15,000 for a mud cake? Even she concedes she’s not that good. 😊
I so hope you grab a copy and have fun with this story. It’s a nice tangly mystery coupled with all the fun and color of a fun July 4th celebration.
Now, I began this chat talking about movies – and mystery. Do you have a favorite mystery movie – or even a favorite mystery television series? I’m a sucker for all those wonderful 80s series – Murder She Wrote (I still watch them!) Columbo, Diagnosis Murder, Matlock – and adore all the slightly more current UK series – Vera, Foyle’s War, Silent Witness, Midsomer Murders, Mrs Bradley Mysteries etc. Share with us your favorite – or if you’re not a mystery fan – your fave movie or TV show, and go in the draw for a randomly drawn $10 Amazon gift card and a free ebook from the Hart of Texas Murder Mystery Series.
About the author.
Her books have won many awards, among them the prestigious Aurealis Award for best paranormal and ARRA (Australian Romance Readers Association) awards. Her novel ‘Dead, Actually’ (Allen & Unwin) was nominated for a Davitt Award, (Best crime novel, Sisters In Crime) in the YA section. Dividing her time between teaching and writing, Kaz formerly tutored Creative Writing for CSU’s Enrichment Program as well as teaching and creating courses for the Australian College of Journalism.
Having always had a love of cozy mysteries, Kaz is having so much fun writing her Hart of Texas Mystery Series for TULE Publishing, that she worries it’s not legal!
With their family grown and gone, Kaz lives with her wonderful husband at beautiful Lake Macquarie, Australia, a place she describes as a strip of land between the ocean and lake. Like Rosie, Kaz loves to bake and grow vegetables and unlike Rosie, manages to make a mess of every crochet task she undertakes.