Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Virtual Book Tour: A Diet of Death by Jinny Alexander @CeramicFairy @GoddessFish

A Diet of Death

by Jinny Alexander

GENRE: Cozy Mystery


Ballyfortnum Get Slim group--putting the die in the diet.

In the close-knit Irish Village of Ballyfortnum, getting slim might just get you dead. Mystery-lover Jess O'Malley is distraught when her elderly friend dies, but that's not all--he's the third of the local slimming group to die this year and it's only February. Is something amiss in the Get Slim group?

Jess, aided by her sidekick Fletcher, her boisterous Labrador, must convince local policeman Marcus that there may be a murderer at large in the village. If she doesn't solve the mystery, will another of the dieters end up dead? Or worse--if she doesn't stop asking awkward questions, will Jess become the next victim?

Purchase A Diet of Death on Amazon


Jess shuddered, remembering how, on the Wednesday of that week, she had bumped into Breda in the refrigerator aisle of one of the supermarkets in Lambskillen. They chatted for a while in front of the fish section, each clasping a warming bag of prawns while discussing the merits of various shellfish. Breda had never had mussels before, she’d said, peering dubiously into the fridge.

Nor any shellfish, sure I haven’t,” she’d told Jess, brimming over with the enthusiasm of one discovering new tastes. She gestured back towards the fridge. “Nor octopus … sounds suckery—however would you cook it?”

There was a whole section of seafood recipes in the newest Get Slim magazine that she was going to try out, Breda said, managing to sound both wary and excited. Adding a jar of tartare sauce to her basket, Breda moved on.

Jess returned her own lukewarm bag of prawns to the fridge, and selected instead a bag of battered onion rings from the freezer below, tossed them into her trolley, and wheeled off into the wine aisle. She waved at Breda across the car park as they loaded their shopping into their respective car boots.

Three days later, as she’d considered the news Mrs Dunne had shared, wondered if Angela had been trying out the same recipe. Food poisoning, Mrs Dunne had reckoned. Dodgy prawns? Jess shudder as she relived the moment she’d decided to choose unhealthy—but delicious—battered onion rings instead of the nakedness of wrinkled prawns, put off by the thought of accidentally purchasing something healthy that Kate might construe as a sign to try to persuade Jess to join Get Slim. 

Interview with Jinny Alexander,

author of A Diet of Death (The first Jess O’Malley Mystery)

How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
I live in a small Irish village, and one of my neighbors joined the local slimming group and had a heart attack shortly afterwards. (He’s fine, by the way!) I wrote a short story about that as part of an Open University writing course, but quickly realized it had plenty of room to grow into a full-length village murder mystery. Since then, it’s grown into the start of a whole series.

What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
As this book is a Cozy Mystery, I had to ensure it fitted the genre conventions – an amateur sleuth; a close community; a light-hearted, easy read with puzzle for readers to solve along the way. Other than that, I wanted to give an insight into Irish village life, and include cultural realities (for example, the book opens with a wake scene). It was also important to me to balance the slimming group angle with real-shaped, realistic characters. My main character, Jess O’Malley, is a little overweight, hates exercise, loves cake, and provides a healthy balance to the emphasis other villagers place on weight loss. Early readers suggest I’ve been successful in portraying this village life very well, so I hope other readers agree!

What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Once I decided this would become a series, I knew I had to keep good track of ALL the characters, even the most minor ones, and maintain consistency with the village setting. If Jess turns left from Orchard Close to get to a certain neighbour’s house in Book 1, then that house and neighbour can’t suddenly be in a different place in a later book! Planning all this out clearly was the hardest part, as I had to go back through the book with a fine-toothed comb to find every single detail about the village and the characters. I wrote the sequel (A Hover of Trout, coming in 2023) before securing publication of A Diet of Death, so I could cross-reference the two books and add details into the first to introduce foreshadowing for the second book. I now have a detailed file on every character, an ever-expanding timeline of events, and a map of the village. The map is in the published book, so readers will be able to picture the layout of the village too.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I have to admit, I loved writing this book! I loved getting to know the characters, developing the village, and working out who the culprit must be. Above all, I enjoyed ‘meeting’ Marcus, the policeman, and getting to know how everyone’s dogs behave in the story. It sounds a bit mad, but my characters always take on a life of their own, and I often don’t know who they will become when I first create them. I didn’t expect to like Marcus so much as I first imagined him to be a ‘bumbling-detective type of character’, nor did I expect so many readers to fall in love with him.

Where there alternate endings you considered?
I didn’t know exactly what the ending would be until I was about halfway through the writing. I knew that Jess would need to uncover the criminal, in accordance with the genre conventions, but I had no idea WHO the murderer would be. One of the main features in the Cozy genre is the inclusion of red herrings, mis-judgements from the sleuth, false accusations, and keeping the reader guessing. The most authentic way for me to do this was to not know who the culprit was myself. So as I wrote, I did consider several other suspects, all of whom could have just as easily ended up being the criminal if I had let them!

Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book?
Many of the characters were ‘born’ from people I meet when out walking my dogs! For example, I used to meet a pair of older ladies walking their dogs every day. One of them has a very snappy dog, and this dog became ‘Daisy’ in my book. The two women were the easy inspiration for the characters ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Breda’ who also walk their dogs together around my fictional village, but I must stress that Elizabeth and Breda quickly developed their own personalities and are nothing at all like the real pair of dog-walkers! I also based some of Kate’s Get Slim stories on snippets I heard from a slimming consultant friend. I can’t deny that I think the ‘nutritious and healthy bars’ that Jess O’Malley hates are truly as horrible as Jess thinks they are.

On a more serious note, I also spoke to people with eating disorders, to ensure I portrayed Jess’s sister Alice accurately. Two young women I’ve known since they were children opened up to me about their own stories, which was extremely brave. I am glad that they talked to me, as they both said it helped to talk about it, but also heartbroken that I had never realized what they were going through before that moment.

What genre book do you enjoy reading?

I read almost every genre except horror or sci-fi. I love cozy mysteries a lot, as they tend to be easy reads providing great escape from the stresses of life, but I also enjoy heavier crime, courtroom drama, psychological thrillers, chick-lit, and really, just about anything that is well-written and has characters I can invest in. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a 2022 debut authors group this year, and have read early copies of so many books I may not have chosen to read otherwise, and I have loved every single one of them.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Jinny was first published in Horse and Pony magazine at the age of ten. She’s striving to achieve equal accolade now she’s (allegedly) a grown up. Jinny has had some publishing success with short story and flash competitions and secured a publishing deal in December 2020 for her first three novels. The first of these, Dear Isobel, was released in March 2022. A Diet of Death is Jinny’s second novel and the first in her Cosy Mystery series. Jinny is currently studying an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Hull, UK.

Jinny also teaches English as a foreign language to people all over the world. Her home for now is in rural Ireland, which she shares with her husband and far too many animals. Her two children have grown and flown, but return across the Irish Sea when they can. She quite likes to shut the door on them all and write.

Connect with Jinny Alexander

Facebook ~ Instagram ~ Twitter ~ TikTok ~ Website



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Sherry said...

Looks like a wonderful book.