New murders in old hotels and a dangerous town

Are you a fan of old hotels? You know, the kind with interesting architecture, usually good food, and, often, a history of ghosts. In Texas that might mean the Driskill in Austin, the Galvez in Galveston, the Luther in Palacios, or the Menger in San Antonio. But reporter-turned-detective Syndey Lockhart has a caution for you: the ghosts may be old, but the murder is often new and too close to home. Sydney should know. Seems like every time she checks into a hotel, there’s a new body—and she’s the first suspect.

Lockhart is the fictional creation of Texas-born author Kathleen Kaska. In Murder at the Galvez, Lockhart reluctantly attends a conference at the hotel where, twenty years earlier, she found her grandfather’s body in the lobby. But the conference is cancelled because the keynote speaker has disappeared. He’s found—in the trunk of Lockhart’s car.

In Murder at the Driskill, Lockhart and her boyfriend, PI Ralph Dixon, have just opened an Austin detective agency. Their first client is a gubernatorial candidate who wants dirt on his opponent. Sydney and Ralph are hobnobbing at a swanky cocktail party at the Driskill when the candidate is found shot in a suite down the hall.

In her newest adventure, Lockhart is at the Menger in San Antonio. A dirty bookie named Johnnie Pine has been murdered in the room next to hers. Before it’s all straightened out, she’s involved with an Irish cab driver named Taco, a bouncer named Rio, and Nora Jackson, Pine’s jazz-singer girlfriend. Sydney is whacked over the head and thrown in the river … but no spoilers here. You’ll have to read Murder at the Menger to find out what happens.

The Sydney Lockhart Mysteries are set in the 1950s, but Kaska is a versatile author. Her love of animals led Kaska to create the Kate Caraway Animal Rights Mysteries. Run, Dog, Run focuses on the abuse of racing greyhounds, while A Two-Horse Town finds Kate working to save wild horses in Montana. Kaska has also authored The Classic Triviography Mystery Series, a series of trivia books with volumes on Sherlock Holmes, Alfred Hitchcock, and Agatha Christie.

Kaska lived in Texas for fifty years and thought she would always live in Austin. But now she and her husband are on Fidalgo Island in the State of Washington. When they get homesick, they put Willie Nelson on and do a two-step.


Ever been to Magnolia Bluff, Texas? If you go, you might want to be particularly watchful. It’s like Cabot Cove—they have a lot of murders in that town!

The Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles are the brainchild of Houston author CW Hawes. Several published writers, friends in person and friends on social media, got together more than a year ago to produce an anthology of short mystery stories. All they had was a single image, an abandoned boat sitting alone and possibly forlorn on a deserted shoreline. The authors each created a story based on what he or she saw in the image, and the anthology, Beyond the Sea, came out of ten imaginations all working on the same theme. As you would expect, no two stories bore any similarity to each other. Simply put, no two writers ever think alike.

The contributors had so much fun that they decided to take on a much more ambitious project. CW created the town of Magnolia Bluff in the Texas Hill Country, sitting on the edge of fictional Burnet reservoir. The authors collectively populated the town and its businesses, and last April, released Book 1 in the series, CW’s own Death Wears a Crimson Hat. Caleb Pirtle published Book 2, Eulogy in Black and White, in May, and Cindy Davis, Book 3, The Great Peanut Butter Conspiracy, in June.

A new book will come out each month through December, each set in the town and featuring the many of the same characters. Of course, each writer will introduce a few new characters as well, and those characters will find homes in later books. The Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles are being written by James Callan, the writing team of Rox Burkey and Charles Breakfield, and Linda Pirtle, all from Texas; and Jinx Schwartz, Richard Schwindt, Cindy Davis, and Kelly Marshall, who hail from other states.

Thanks to Texas author, newspaperman, editor, and publisher Caleb Pirtle for information on the Magnolia Bluff Chronicles. Pirtle’s colorful history includes publicity for the late John Connally when he was Texas governor and a stint as the first travel editor for Southern Living. Caleb and his wife, Linda, live and write in Fort Worth. Linda, a retired teacher, is the mystery writer in this team, having published four cozy mysteries. Caleb, author of eighty-eight books, mostly travel, history, biography, and historical fiction, says, “I write every day; Linda writes on Wednesday.”

Judy Alter, former director of TCU Press, is the prolific author of books, both historical and mysterious, mostly about Texas women. Her most recent mystery novel, Irene in Danger, was published in November, 2021.