Friday, December 7, 2018 Alaska: A Guest Post from CATCH ME IF YUKON Author Maddy Hunter

We welcome Maddy Hunter, author of the Passport to Peril Mystery Series (and the latest release in the series, Catch Me if Yukon) to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares the surprises lay in store for her in the state of Alaska.

Alaska became our 49th state when I was in grade school, but I didn't visit it until I needed research material for the next book in my Passport to Peril mystery series, Catch Me if Yukon. (I realize the Yukon isn't in Alaska, but the title was too good to pass up.) I wasn't surprised by the glorious scenery or the fact that people could live in extremely remote areas and actually flourish, but I was surprised by a couple of things that I'd like to share with you.

There were no mosquitoes!

(Okay, there was one rogue mosquito lurking in the bathroom of our cabin in Denali, but it was flying solo.) People had warned me that mosquitoes in Alaska were at least an inch long and so numerous that they traveled in death squads. (Perhaps they were thinking of Lapland, where hats with mosquito netting are a welcome addition to the fashionable tourist's wardrobe.) Happily, all the bug spray I'd packed went unused. There were more mosquitoes in my little flower garden in Wisconsin last summer than in the whole state of Alaska.

Alaska has an unexpectedly international flavor. Who knew?

I'd imagined rugged mountain men types. Flowing beards. An array of suspenders. Twangy speech. What I found was a portly restaurateur with a charming accent who was seated at a cooking station in the middle of his eatery in Seward, whipping up crepes and Belgian waffles as if he were demonstrating the technique in a storefront window. And the reason why Belgian waffles were his specialty? He was an immigrant. From Belgium.

In a town called Girdwood we ate in a restaurant named The Bakery, which offered outdoor seating amid a profusion of hanging baskets and oversized flower pots. It reminded me of the iconic restaurant in Oberammergau, Germany, whose balconies dripped with flowers. After reading the headlines of a framed newspaper inside the restaurant, I learned the reason why The Bakery reminded me of Europe. Its owner had emigrated from…Germany.

Near Girdwood we participated in a dog mushing adventure, run by a young man who was an annual contestant in the Iditarod. He spoke with an accent I couldn't identify, so when I asked him where he was from, he said Normandy. And not Normandy, Texas or Normandy, Tennessee. Normandy, France. An Alaskan dog musher from Normandy, France. Seriously. How does that happen?

Farther north, in Denali, the only road that snakes through the national park terminates at a resort whose dining hall is almost as big as the park itself. There's an army of wait staff who scurry around the room, refilling chafing dishes and clearing tables, but there's so little help available domestically, the resort is forced to hire workers from Eastern Europe. I tried speaking to our waitress, but she spoke so little English that our conversation was limited to smiles and hand gestures, which no doubt explains why buffet-style is the meal plan of choice at the facility.

In a little place called Healy, we crammed into a muddy UTV and drove three bumpy miles into the woods to arrive at our zip-lining venue, where our instructor for the adventure turned out to be a young woman from…wait for it…Bulgaria! She traveled to Alaska on a work visa, fell in love with a man and married him, so she was there permanently.

I came to the conclusion that foreign visitors find Alaska so hypnotic that they decide to stay. So if you happen to be passing through out 49th state, don't be surprised if you hear a delightful assortment of languages and accents. If you stay long enough, you might even hear the hard vowel sounds of a few transplanted Midwesterners. The two bus drivers who transported us through Denali and down the road to Healy? Turns out they used to live right down the street from me in Wisconsin. Go figure.


Catch Me If Yukon Emily and her traveling seniors must solve yeti nother mystery as they trek through the Alaskan wilderness

As tour escort Emily Andrew-Miceli leads her globetrotting band of Iowa seniors into the wilds of Alaska, she discovers that whales aren't the only killers on the prowl. When a tour member turns up dead on a mountainous hiking trail, Emily blames herself for the mishap—until she learns that something far hairier might be the cause.

One of the seniors snaps a photo of what looks like Bigfoot, raising questions about what happened to the victim. But the elusive sasquatch is just a legend, isn't it? Between whale watching in the glacial waters near Seward and ziplining in the primal forests of Denali, Emily finds herself locked in a game of cat and mouse with a killer who may or may not be mere myth.

Praise for the Passport to Peril Mystery Series:

"A bit of humor, a bit of travel information and a bit of mystery add up to some pleasant light reading."—Kirkus Reviews

"The cast of characters is highly entertaining and the murder mystery mixed with good humor!"—Suspense Magazine

"Maddy Hunter's Passport to Peril series is a first-class ticket to entertainment."—Carrie Bebris, award-winning author of the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery series

Maddy Hunter has endured disastrous vacations on three continents in the past five years. The first six titles in the Passport to Peril Mystery series are available from Pocket Books; books seven through twelve are available through Midnight Ink Books. The first in the series, Alpine for You, was an Agatha Award finalist and a Daphne du Maurier Award finalist. Also, Hula Done It?, Pasta Imperfect, and Top O' the Mournin' were named to the Independent Mystery Bookseller's Association bestseller list. The author resides in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information, go to

That Crazy Little Thing Called Plot: A Guest Post from SECOND GOODBYE Author Patricia Smiley

We welcome Patricia Smiley, author of the new Second Goodbye, the third book in the Pacific Homicide Mystery Series, to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she talks about how the plot came together for her new book.

Buried deep inside a file drawer in my office is a folder filled with yellowing true-crime newspaper clippings meant to inspire the plot of my next novel. The only problem is once they're neatly clipped and stored I rarely look at them again. Mostly, my books are created from a disparate array of alluring subjects and events I've experienced firsthand. This process is especially true for the genesis of Second Goodbye.

Like most authors, I embrace my characters. Davie Richards is a gutsy, principled, but flawed second-generation LAPD detective who’s devoted to seeking justice for murder victims. The people who inhabit her world—Bear, Vaughn, and Frank Giordano—captivate me. I care about what happens to all of them, including those who were never meant to have an afterlife beyond one novel. But there was one character I just couldn't jettison—LAPD Homicide-Special Detective Jon Striker. Striker worked a case with Davie in Outside the Wire, but after the novel ended, his back-story was still mostly unknown, especially the origin of that mysterious tattoo on his arm. All I initially knew about Second Goodbye was that Striker would feature prominently.

Around this time, I attended a fan convention in New Orleans where I met a cop who suggested I look into suicides in gun stores for possible plot ideas. It was an intriguing idea that eventually became an essential element of the book.

Money laundering has always fascinated me. I earned an MBA, so I know about balance sheets and profit-and-loss statements. I also worked for fifteen years as a volunteer and Specialist Reserve Officer for the Los Angeles Police Department, including five years assigned to the detective squad room, investigating financial crimes. On the surface, the basics of washing dirty cash seemed straightforward. But the intricacies were more difficult to chart, which is the whole point if you're a crook. I began researching the issue until I felt comfortable incorporating a money-laundering scheme into the story.

Ideas for Second Goodbye began stacking up. I had Striker, a death in a gun store, and money laundering. While working on the manuscript, I went on a sailing trip to the British Virgin Islands and learned that the area was a money-laundering haven for criminals transferring cash to and from the mainland and complicit local banks. That's when the plot "thickened." Just as it had in Outside the Wire, Davie's investigation becomes too complex to handle at Pacific Division and is transferred downtown to Homicide-Special, where she and Striker again partner to solve the case. Accordingly, they follow the money to the island of Tortola.

Every author has a unique writing process. For me, the plot comes together at random when I keep my eyes and subconscious open to crazy little ideas—even while on a sailboat in the BVIs.


Second Goodbye

Assume nothing—that's the touchstone for every homicide investigation Detective Davie Richards undertakes. She approaches her latest case the same way, determined to learn as much about the victim as she does about the killer. But there's nothing about thirty-four-year-old Sara Montaine or her death that makes sense.

Was Sara a saint caring for her dying husband or a gold-digger with a sketchy background? Did she commit suicide or was she murdered? Before her marriage, Sara lived comfortably without any obvious source of income, unusual for an orphan raised in foster care. As Davie digs deeper, she unearths Sara's troubled past and a viper's nest of villains who are willing to kill to keep their secrets hidden.


"Sassy and analytical, L.A. Detective Davie Richards utilizes 'shoe leather and minutiae' to unravel a brilliantly staged fake suicide. Seamless prose, tightly crafted clues, and surprising twists make LThe Second Goodbye a memorable police procedural. Brew the coffee for the graveyard shift, as you'll be up all night reading."
—K.J. Howe, best-selling author of The Freedom Broker and Skyjack

"Patricia Smiley tackles Michael Connelly territory and succeeds with a realistic, compelling police procedural in the badlands of contemporary Los Angeles. Detective Davie Richards is a smart, no-nonsense heroine, and the storytelling had me turning the pages at the expense of mundane activities like sleeping. The Second Goodbye is an intriguing mystery laced with well-researched law enforcement practices."
—Raymond Benson, author of In the Hush of the Night and The Black Stiletto Serial

"The Second Goodbye is a straight ahead jolt of police procedural adrenaline! Like Michael Connelly, Patricia Smiley grabs a hold of you and pulls you into the story without tricks or gimmicks. Just a great story told by a great storyteller. The Second Goodbye catapults Smiley onto the top tier of crime writers!"
—Matt Coyle, Anthony Award-winning author of the Rick Cahill crime series

Patricia Smiley is a bestselling mystery author whose short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Two of the Deadliest, an anthology edited by Elizabeth George. Patricia has taught writing classes at various conferences throughout the US and Canada, and she served on the board of directors of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and as president of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles. Visit her online at