Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Murder Once Removed was the bigass winner of the 2017 Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery award. I'm sure you're all thinking "Why would a curmudgeony fan of violence and grit be looking at domestic mysteries?" Because THIS one is written by the inimitable S.C. ("Rodeo Sandy") Perkins, that's why. And give that cover a gander, why don't you? #Winning.

The star of Murder Once Removed is smart, sassy, Mexican-food-enthused genealogical expert Lucy Lancaster, who resides in Austin, Texas, and makes her living tracking ancestral histories for her clients.*

Lucy's company, Ancestry Investigations, is currently working for one of Austin's most prestigious families. Billionaire gentleman and "stubborn, opinionated old coot" Gus Halloran has asked Lucy to track his lineage. Lucy being Lucy, she also sticks her nose into the suspicious 1849 death of Gus's great-great-grandfather and comes up with new information that proves he was murdered and said murder just may be linked to another prominent Austin family, the Applewhites.

The Applewhites and the Hallorans have done their best to one-up each other over the generations, with sitting U.S. Senator Daniel Applewhite currently facing Pearce Halloran in a heated upcoming election. Lucy's discovery of the murder and potential involvement of the Applewhite family comes to light; which is, of course, when all the sidewalk cracks start bearing weeds, leading to mayhem and murder.

The story is a cracker and educational to boot. Perkins did an incredibly admirable job of explaining "once-removeds" and "great-great-greats" to this remedial maroon. The mystery is well done on its own, though any story is hard-pressed to outshine feisty Lucy, her incredible friends, her frenemies, the parties, the food (if Big Flaco's Taco's doesn't exist this world is a darker place), and Neil Patrick Housecat. The repartee is reminiscent of a screwball comedy and if you don't want to hang out with Lucy and the gang when you're done I'll eat a 10-gallon hat. Perkins's character work is fabulous.

Murder Once Removed is fast-paced, yet Perkins includes historical tidbits that make Austin feel like a place the reader has to visit, if only to get a look at a building shaped like nose-hair clippers (and eat the food). I Googled it, Perkins's assessment is spot on and the insight and humor she shows on all fronts is a delight. This book is charming as all get-out and I highly recommend it.

If you'd like a more in-depth sense of S.C. Perkins, her sense of adventure, and where Lucy sprang from, please head on over to Pop Culture Nerd's site, where we put Stephanie through the wringer of our weirdo Q&A.

Happy debut, Stephanie, here's hoping for many more!

*(side note: I have never wanted to do this, as I know I come from a long line of Australian convicts and Slovenian bootleggers and it can only get worse from there, but the packages Lucy puts together for her clients are enough to make me wish she was real and maybe I could buy the history of Cary Grant or someone cool and interesting. The details Stephanie includes are fantastic and never overwhelm the narrative, a tough win when you're dealing with complex issues such as genealogy.)

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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