Friday, March 14, 2008

Jane K. Cleland

Jane K. Cleland, amateur sleuth cozy mysteries with a flavoring of ‘The Antiques Roadshow’
by Steven Williams

color photograph of Jane K. ClelandJane K. Cleland is an emerging new writer of amateur sleuth cozy mysteries. Her books feature the recurring character Josie Prescott and some reviewers have made comparisons of Cleland's antiques focused mysteries to the PBS series The Antiques Roadshow. Both the setting and the experiences of her Josie Prescott character is based on the author's own experiences as a one-time owner of a rare book and antiques store in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Especially the complexity of appraising antiques. Cleland currently lives in New York City with her husband. In addition to writing, Cleland runs her own business communications firm an outgrowth of her earning an MBA from Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. The business side focuses on writing seminars for the American Management Association and developing and facilitating specific workshops for clients. In her mystery fiction related life she fills the post of president for the New York chapter of the Mystery Writers of America as well as chairing the Wolfe Pack’s literary awards. The Wolfe Pack is the official Nero Wolfe society and focuses on providing a forum for discussion and appreciation of the adventures of Nero Wolfe, the fictional detective created by the American mystery writer Rex Stout. The Pack's activities include organizing events and book discussions as well as publishing a journal dedicated to study of Stout's genius detective and sponsoring a number of literary awards, including of course the Nero Award. Cleland's business communications publications include How to Create High-impact Newsletters, How to Create High-impact Designs, Putting First What Matters Most, and Business Writing for Results.

'Consigned to Death, A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery' by Jane K. Cleland hardcover edition front coverConsigned to Death: A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (2006)
Cleland's first book introduces her recurring character, Josie Prescott. Josie has left a career at a prominent New York auction house for a sort of semi-retirement as an antiques dealer and auctioneer in a small New Hampshire coastal town. The change was not completely voluntary though since she had to leave after testifying against her former boss regarding the New York auction house's involvement in a price fixing scandal. She is happy enough with her lifestyle change until she becomes mixed up in the stabbing death of a wealthy, reclusive antiques dealer because the local police chief pegs her as one of the prime suspects. She finds herself setting off to find the killer herself and clear her name. It turns out that the murder is in some way related to a few valuable paintings of questionable provenance that went missing at about the same time as the murder. In the process of tracking the killer or killers as well as the paintings, the somewhat ethically murky world of antiques is presented with its blend of cutthroat competition, price fixing, haggling, and both difficult clients and competitors. This book is an Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller. It has also been nominated for the Maccavity, Agatha, and David book awards.

'Deadly Appraisal, A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery' by Jane K. Cleland hardcover edition front coverDeadly Appraisal: A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (2007)
In Cleland's second Josie Prescott mystery, her main character's antiques business is thriving and she has begun to develop friendships within the New Hampshire coastal town where she has decided to put down new roots. Her amateur sleuthing abilities are called up again when a suspicious death hits close to home. It all begins when Josie decides to host a benefit for a local charity, the Portsmouth Women's Guild. One of the people attending the gala event, actually one of the guild's representatives, dies suddenly and Josie, as one of the people who had access to the food preparation area, is on the list of suspects in what turns out to have been a deliberate poisoning. Josie finds herself again trying to discover the motivation and the killer in order to clear her name. As Josie follows her leads she finds a possible relationship to the murder in the theft of a valuable Chinese porcelain tureen. It has been replaced with a fake, apparently in an effort to wreck Josie's reputation. While she is conducting her investigation, she must also continue to keep her business going as well as build on the tenuous social relationships she has been able to establish so far.

'Antiques to Die for, A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery' by Jane K. Cleland hardcover edition front coverAntiques to Die For: A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (April, 2008)
April 2008 is the scheduled release date for the third Josie Prescott antiques mystery. In this story, Cleland has Josie continuing to build on her initial business success in the small New Hampshire coastal town she has relocated to from New York City. Things mysterious and deadly just seem to keep showing up right at her feet though. This time it is the death of a friend. Just hours after Josie was given a personal secret, told in confidence, the woman is killed. Fortunately for Josie, this time the list of suspects does not include her but it does include the dead woman's boss, his scheming wife, and the dead woman's boyfriend. An additional complication for Josie does turn up though in the form of the dead woman's twelve year old sister who Josie decides to take into her own home. As in Cleland's previous Josie Prescott mysteries, antiques play an important role in unraveling the motivation and the identity of the murderer.

black and white photograph of Dorothy L. SayersCozy Mysteries
Cozy Mysteries are a sub-genre of mysteries that is also known as 'English' style Whodunits or Golden Age Whodunits. As a variant of the whodunit detective mystery, the English or Golden Age style is noted for an inclination towards the use of a gifted amateur as the primary investigator of the murder instead of an official detective or police officer. Some of the most recognized writers in this style are Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Josephine Tey, Michael Innes, Nicholas Blake, Christianna Brand and Edmund Crispin. Notable American writers who mimicked the English style include S. S. Van Dine, John Dickson Carr, and Ellery Queen.

See also the related Bookmarc’s BookmarcsOnline Blogspot articleModern Mystery Genres, proliferation in popular fiction styles

color photograph of an Agatha Award 'Teapot'Agatha Award
The Agatha Awards are fan-generated literary awards for mystery and crime authors that are given out by Malice Domestic. Malice Domestic is an annual mystery fan convention held in metropolitan Washington, DC that celebrates the traditional mystery as typified by Agatha Christie's mystery novels. Malice Domestic convention registrants and members of Friends of Malice receive nomination ballots in January. For works to be nominated, they must have been submitted to Malice Domestic for consideration for nomination by their publishers within the previous year. The Agatha Awards are given out at the subsequent annual Malice Domestic convention and they are given out for five categories: Best Novel, Best First Mystery, Best Short Story, Best Non-Fiction, and Best Children's or Young Adult Mystery. Malice Domestic logoAgatha Award nominees must have a number of characteristics. Any work considered for an Agatha Award must have been published first in the United States plus it needs to have been written by a living author. Publication of considered works may be as hardcover editions, paperback original editions, or e-published editions. For any mystery to be considered for any of the Agatha Award categories, it must contain no explicit sex, excessive gore, or unjustified violence. Agatha Award nominees almost always feature an amateur detective as well as always taking place within a confined setting (i.e., a 'closed room', country house, or small town). All Agatha Award nominated works also always contain main characters that know one another. 'Hard Boiled' mysteries are explicitly not considered for Agatha Awards.

color photograph of a Macavity AwardMacavity Award
The Macavity Award is named for the "mystery cat" of T.S. Eliot (Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats). Each year the members of Mystery Readers International nominate and vote for their favorite mysteries in four categories. The year listed for an award is for books published in the previous calendar year. Mystery Readers International (MRI) is the largest mystery fan/reader organization in the world, and is open to all readers, fans, critics, editors, publishers, and writers. The Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award is one of the sub-categories of the Macavity Awards and it was created in 2006 to honor the memory and work of Sue Feder (died 2005) also known as Sue Feder Miller. Sue Feder was a noted dedicated and enthusiastic reviewer, scholar, and fans of mysteries. Feder founded the Historical Mystery Appreciation Society (HMAS) along with its quarterly journal, Murder Past Tense, which was dedicated to and focused on the works Ellis Peters. Feder also wrote reviews for Deadly Pleasures and Mystery Readers Journal and was a member of DAPA-EM for many years. DAPA-EM is a fan publication and its members (about thirty-five writers, readers, fanzine editors, and aficionados of the mystery genre) each write a bimonthly 'zine of reviews, checklists, profiles and articles about mystery fiction. The resulting thirty to forty 'zines are then collated and redistributed to members. She was instrumental in establishing the HMAS Herodotus Award for historical mysteries. The Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award continues this tradition in her memory. Mystery Readers International logoNominees are made and voted on by members of MRI and presented at each year's BoucherCon World Mystery Convention (also known as The Anthony Boucher Memorial Mystery Convention), their annual convention. This convention is named in honor of Anthony Boucher, the best-known pseudonym of William Anthony Parker White, an American fiction reviewer, science fiction editor, and author of mystery novels and short stories. His influence was most widely felt through his position as an editor from which he helped many authors get their start in writing. He is also noted for his efforts to make literary quality an important aspect of science fiction.

Deadly Ink logoDavid Award
The David Award is given out as a Best Mystery Novel prize and is sponsored by Deadly Ink and Deadly Ink Press. It is named in honor of David G. Sasher, Sr. Deadly Ink also sponsors the Ida Chittum Award for Best Young Adult Mystery each year, the Patti Award for the winner of their Short Story Contest, and the Amanda Award for the winner of their Mystery Novel Contest. Deadly Ink and Deadly Ink Press is a fan-controlled organization dedicated to helping writers achieve publishing success. Besides providing publishing services, they hold a yearly writer and fan conference that focuses on seminars and writer's workshops aimed at authors or would-be authors.

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Jane K. Cleland, amateur sleuth cozy mysteries with a flavoring of ‘The Antiques Roadshow by Steven Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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