Spy Shop Mysteries and Cat Cozies

"Mystery...can brighten the reader’s most stressful day, even if only briefly."


Lisa Haneberg is adding Stiff Lizard as the fourth title in her eclectic Spy Shop Mysteries, a series set on Galveston Island and featuring spy-shop owner and private investigator Xena Cali and her team, Sparky and Dora. Xena, who sports a wild assortment of tattoos, is a former human-resources administrator, who left the corporate world after one highly successful sting operation that gave her a nice bonus, to relocate on Galveston Island and open the spy shop that doubles as a private-investigation service.


Why a spy shop? Because she loves poetic justice. Highlight of her investigative career? Maybe, just maybe, interrogating an octopus while wearing a bear costume at a cocktail party. Why Galveston? Because of its colorful history, from pirates to mobsters, and the way it is bounces back, always filled with ghosts, from the hurricanes that have periodically destroyed it. Galveston is as quirky as Xena and her cases.


Got a weird case? Give Xena a call. Her rate is $350 an hour, but she won’t bill you for the double cortados she drinks in the morning or the evening’s Scotch. The stories combine satire and humor with elements from natural history and often rely on spy gadgets, the odder the better, to solve the cases.  Haneberg describes these “capers” as “a tad more edgy than cozy.”  (Learn more about Stiff Lizard by visiting the Lone Star Lit Book Blitz page.) These fanciful tales may remind you of Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry, or Elmore Leonard. Earlier titles in the series are Ghost Rat (a novella which introduced the series in 2017), Toxic Octopus, and Dead Pelican.


Haneberg confesses that she is her own number-one fan, the first to laugh at her own dorky jokes. Mystery, she believes, can brighten the reader’s most stressful day, even if only briefly. Her mission it to make people laugh. But there is another side to this prolific author: before turning to the quirky world of Galveston Island and edgy mysteries, she had—and still has—an established career as a nonfiction author and business consultant, with expertise in human-resources management. But lest you think she stepped too far into the corporate world, here’s her idea of publicity: she once rode her motorbike (named Purple Haze) over nine thousand miles to promote one of her books, doing forty readings and signings. She learned, she says, to dodge a cicada swarm or a North Dakota hailstorm, both at seventy miles an hour.


Want to keep up with the latest in spy shop mysteries and other Haneberg adventures? At her web page, Lisa Haneberg | Author, you can sign up for her e-newsletter, “Literary Happy Hour.”


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And speaking of unusual series, check out the five titles in Cindy Vincent’s Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Capers, a mystery series for kids and cat-lovers that features the adventures of two black cat detectives. And yes, as she is often asked, Cindy used her own black cats, Buckley and Bogey, as the inspiration for the series, since they seem to run surveillance on her house each and every night. All five titles are available in one Kindle edition, or you can start with The Cat Show Princess, in which Buckley and Bogey try to rescue a feline who claims to be in great danger—and find themselves in peril. Holy catnip!


Cindy is also the creator of the Mysteries by Vincent murder-mystery party games and the Daisy Diamond Detective Series games for girls, along with the Daisy Diamond Detective novels, which are a spin-off from the games. Perfect for those tween birthday parties! She lives in Houston with her husband and an assortment of fantastic felines. Cindy is a self-professed “Christmas-a-holic,” and usually starts planning and preparing in March for her ever-expanding, “extreme” Christmas lights display every year. Want to bet Buckley and Bogey are involved in a Christmas caper, sooner or later?


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Cozy readers are among mystery’s most devoted fans, but what exactly is a cozy mystery, other than an oxymoron? From time to time, one author or another tackles the problem of defining and describing this mystery sub-genre. Thanks to Kaye George (Vintage Sweets Mysteries) for bringing this excellent history and description to my attention. Cozy fans, readers of traditional mysteries, and the uninitiated should all appreciate this informative article: Novel Investigations: A Brief History of Cozy Mysteries | Novel Suspects.


Judy Alter, former director of TCU Press, is the prolific author of books, both historical and mysterious, mostly about Texas women. Her most recent book, Saving Irene, was published in September. Follow Judy at http://www.judyalter.com.