Word play, sleuthing seniors, vintage sweets

Who’s your favorite Texas mystery sleuth and/or author? Write Judy at j.alter@tcu.edu, and she’ll see what she can dig up on that sleuth or author.


Houston mystery author Julie B. Cosgrove is back with a new series, Word Play Mysteries, built around the board game Scrabble. In the first entry, Word Has It, Wanda Warner schedules regular games of Scrabble with her nephew on Thursday mornings, his day off from his new position at the Scrub Oak Police Department. When strange words like perp, jewels, escape, and lying show up in their game, Wanda becomes suspicious. And when she learns of the robbery of a jewelry store in a neighboring town, she knows she has to investigate, starting with the supposedly abandoned old Ferguson place. Tracking down the thieves is the least she can do for her beloved hometown of Scrub Oak.


Cosgrove likes the idea of a trio investigating crimes. The author of the previously published Bunco Buddies and Relatively Speaking series, in this new mystery she creates two friends for Wanda: Betty Sue, a retired schoolteacher, and Evelyn, a Gulf War widow. Together the three set out to uncover the mystery of the jewel thieves—but they never expected someone to get shot.


Themes of women’s friendships and widowhood echo through Cosgrove’s cozy mysteries, perhaps reflecting her own life. She was named "One of the 50 Writers You should be Reading" in 2015 and 2016 by the nationally syndicated radio program “The Author Show,” and Best Religious Fiction 2016 winner and Best Cozy Mystery 2017 winner by the Texas Association of Authors. Cosgrove is also a Grace Award finalist and an INSPY semifinalist.


A member of Christian Authors Network, Texas Association of Authors, Advanced Writers and Speakers, American Christian Fiction Writers, Daughters of the Holy Cross, and several web-based author groups, Julie has one grown son and lives in Fort Worth. Hailed by some as the queen of cozy mysteries, she is praised for characters who come alive and “jump off the page.” Visit her website at http://www.juliebcosgrove.com or her blog: WhereDidYouFindGodToday.com.


Texas native D. B. Borton has reinvigorated an older series from the 1990s. Old or new, Cat Caliban is a hoot. At an age when too many women tend to their knitting and eagerly anticipate grandmotherhood, she decides on a career as a private detective. She sells her home, buys an apartment building in a “transitional” neighborhood, and sets out to learn her new trade. It doesn’t take long—she discovers the body of a homeless woman in one of her apartments. Other mysteries follow in such rapid succession that the first four Cat Caliban titles are available as a package. The books are One for the Money, Two-Shot Foul, Three-Ring Circus, and Four Elements of Murder.


A retired English professor, Borton has published eleven novels in two series: Cat Caliban Mysteries and Gilda Liberty Mysteries. In addition, she has written the stand-alone mysteries Smoke and Bayou City Burning and the humorous science fiction title, Second Coming. As an academic writer, she has published articles on film, women’s ghost stories, and girl detectives, the latter especially fitting since she freely admits Nancy Drew was her inspiration for writing and she owned her own roadster at a young age, learning to drive on the freeways of Houston.


Somewhere between fish and dogs, she acquired a cat and has, she says, served cats ever since. A political activist, she claims only to have worked for candidates who lost and left Texas, according to her, just about when everyone else arrived. She now makes her home in the Midwest but retains a native’s fondness for Texas.


It’s the season for sequels: Kaye George is out with the third in her Vintage Sweets Mysteries set in Fredericksburg. Into the Sweet Hereafter finds Tally Holt desperately trying to solve a rash of burglaries, including her faux display candies in the window, before a more serious crime takes place. Dallas novelist Vicki Batman invites us back to Sommerville for Temporarily Out of Luck which finds Hattie working as a wedding planner whose plans go astray when her former brother-in-law is found dead.


And a special shout-out to Babette and Leon Hale. It’s not every month—or even year—that a husband and wife have simultaneous publications. His? See You on Down the Road, in which the beloved Houston columnist recounts anecdotes from retirement as he nears the age of one hundred. Hers? A Wall of Bright Dead Feathers, twelve stories of everyday people caught in life-changing events. Here’s to Texas’s most dynamic writing duo!


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.