Friday, November 15, 2013

Mystery Meets Humor

By Heather Fraser Brainerd

I write the José Picada, P.I. series with my brother, David Fraser. We’ve been writing together since we were kids, and the main goal of our shared work has always been to make each other laugh. (Well, getting published was a main goal, too, but cracking each other up was pretty high on the list.) Given this history, it’s no surprise that our mystery series turned out to be heavy on the humor. To show you what I mean, here’s an excerpt from Deception Al Dente, the first book in the series:

“Hey, doll, is José around?”
It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t hear the speaker enter. I sat with my back to the door, looking out the big window behind my desk, absorbed in people watching while pedestrians passed on the sidewalk below. It wasn’t very stimulating stuff, but it beat sitting there twiddling my thumbs.
Still, I should have heard a prospective client come through my office door. A good private investigator is supposed to have nerves of steel, the reflexes of a cat, and the senses of… I don’t know, something with really good senses. To make matters worse, the guy must have weighed in at two hundred fifty pounds, easy. There’s no way he made a stealthy entrance.
“Um, no, he’s not here right now. Is there something I can help you with?”
He plopped down into the seat across the desk from me. I held my breath, waiting to see if the old wood would hold together under his weight. Like everything else in the office suite, I’d bought it second-hand. The suite wasn’t very big, consisting merely of a small reception room with my office off to the left and a walk-in storage closet to the right. I didn’t have much of a budget for decorating, so the place had been completely outfitted via Craigslist. Well, almost completely. I’d also picked up a few things off the curb.
The chair held, at least for now. For its sake, I’d try to keep the meeting short.
“I’m Marco Augustino,” he said as if the name should mean something to me. My face must have been a blank stare, because when he continued, he sounded a little hurt. “Marco Augustino. Chef Marco. I own Bistro Italiano.”
Still, nothing. A glance at my garbage can showed wrappers from all my regular fast food joints. Just the name of it told me that Bistro Italiano was way out of my price range these days. If business picked up, maybe someday. Or, if I did a good job on his case, maybe this Chef Marco would float me some free food. But I’d prefer cash.
“Anyway,” he said with a chuckle, “I need to hire a private dick.”
It wasn’t the first time I heard this particular line, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. Usually, it didn’t merit a response, but something about Chef Marco annoyed me. I slipped into my best intellectual accent, the one used by all the talking heads on the Sunday morning political talk shows. The one that normal people like me use to try to sound smart.
“For what reason, sir, do you require a private investigator?”
“I need…hang on a second.” Marco picked up the name plate from my desk, the one I brought with me when I left the Charles Harrison Insurance Company. “You’re Josie?”
“Yes. I’m Josie.”
He let out a loud laugh. My eyes went to the chair to see if it would tolerate his shaking. It gave one little creak, but held. Thirty seconds or so later, he stopped laughing while wiping tears from his eyes.
“Did I miss something, sir?”
“No, it’s just… José… Josie. Anyone ever mix you two up?”
No, never, since José didn’t exist. But I couldn’t explain the whole thing right then and there. It would take too long and I had a chair in danger.
“Okay, so anyway, I’m doing okay with my restaurant, right? It’s, like, packed with people all night. My kitchen is busy as hell. But for some reason, I’m not making any money. I think someone’s stealing from me.”
“Have you consulted a financial professional?”
“I got me an accountant, yeah. Thing is, since money’s involved, he might be in on it, you know? Plus there’s more to it than just missing money.”
“Such as?”
“Such as someone slashed my tires a couple nights ago. Such as someone leaving hundreds of dollars of meat on a counter overnight so it spoiled. Such as at least once a week someone squashes my cannoli.  There’s a bunch of other little things, too many to list. I’m telling you, someone’s messing with me, and I want to know who.”

When it came time to classify our first book by genre, the most accurate label seemed to be “Humorous Paranormal Cozy Mystery.” We pared it down to Paranormal Mystery, but try to let people know about the book’s humor through our marketing efforts.

If you’re in the mood for a good humorous paranormal cozy mystery, check out the José Picada, P.I. series:

New detective Josie Cates never thought her first real case would lead to the world of black magic. Get it now from MuseItUp.

Thanksgiving dinner with the family can be murder. Especially when someone is actually trying to kill you. Coming soon from MuseItUp.

Find Heather and David:


anne stenhouse said...

Hi Heather, Well, we have a chef in the family...
Love the extract. Good luck with it all. Anne Stenhouse

Unknown said...

Thanks, Anne. We have a good friend who is a chef. Dinner at his house is always a special treat!

Marsha said...

Okay, Heather. I don't usually read cozies or first person books, but your blurb is priceless, and I love that you don't exactly fit a niche! Heading to the the MIU bookstore now. Only child here, so love that you're getting to write with your brother. Must be soooo fun. (I think I see the makings of a great story in your lives!) Good luck with the series. I'll FB & Tweet this.

Unknown said...

Wow, thanks so much for your kind words, Marsha! I'm very lucky to work with Dave. We have so much fun together!

J.Q. Rose said...

I can foresee some giggles coming my way when I read this book. On my Kindle and ready. Loved the excerpt and I love cozy mysteries with humor and especially with strong heroines.
I have 2 older brothers, but they are not inclined to be writers, dang it.

Unknown said...

Thanks for stopping by, Janet. Hope you enjoy!