Murder, mayhem, opinions, and food.

Not necessarily in that order

EVENTS

UPDATE

Many mystery events have been cancelled in response to the COVID-19. Malice has now announced that it's canceling until next year.Several of the events that MWA Norcal had scheduled have been cancelled for now. We are researching how to host online events so stay posted.

NEW BOOK!

RESOLUTION IS FINISHED AND UP FOR SALE!!!!!!! My amazing sister, Valerie Mighetto, designed the awesome cover, and I'm really pleased how it turned out.

I've finally formatted and wrangled my words into something that resembles a book using technology that was determined to thwart me at every turn. The mental scars will fade eventually, but what a difficult and frustrating process. Anyway. Resolution, my second Jane Austen pastiche, is done! It is for sale at all the usual haunts, both as a digital and paperback copy. Persuasion is the most melancholy of Austen's books, and I hope I was able to capture what makes Anne Elliot the character in all of Austen who deserves the happy ending.

Resolution is a modern retelling of the Jane Austen classic Persuasion. Instead of sailors, we have academics and instead of Bath, we have Carmel. Our story opens with Anne Eliot packing up the family home. Her father, a professor at the University of California, is book smart but a financial idiot. In an attempt to recoup his losses from a disastrous business investment, he rents out the family home to the Crofts, who happen to be the brother-in-law and sister of Derrick Wentworth, Anne’s former love. They met while students at university and had an acrimonious parting the spring of her junior year. Now thirty-five, she’s dated other men, but no one has made as deep dents in her heart as had Derrick Wentworth. We have the selfish father, the odious sister, and whining malcontented sister set against the backdrops of California cities of Berkeley and Carmel. There is commentary on academia, grief, love in the modern age, and marriage in the modern age, and stubborn young men who learn to regret their arrogance and the women who love them.

BOOKS

Resolution is a modern retelling of the Jane Austen classic Persuasion. Instead of sailors, we have academics and instead of Bath, we have Carmel. Our story opens with Anne Eliot packing up the family home. Her father, a professor at the University of California, is book smart but a financial idiot. In an attempt to recoup his losses from a disastrous business investment, he rents out the family home to the Crofts, who happen to be the brother-in-law and sister of Derrick Wentworth, Anne’s former love. They met while students at university and had an acrimonious parting the spring of her junior year. Now thirty-five, she’s dated other men, but no one has made as deep dents in her heart as had Derrick Wentworth. We have the selfish father, the odious sister, and whining malcontented sister set against the backdrops of California cities of Berkeley and Carmel. There is commentary on academia, grief, love in the modern age, and marriage in the modern age, and stubborn young men who learn to regret their arrogance and the women who love them.

 

Pen and Prejuduce is not a classic mystery, it's a pastiche of the brilliant Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice, but instead of our saucy heroine and arrogant suitor waging a verbal war in the drawing rooms and ballrooms of the nineteeth century, this novel transplants them to the present day and has them verbally sparring at various mystery conferences on the circuit. It is available as both an e-book and a trade paperback.

Reviews

Pen and Prejudice* is marvelous, and it’s a shame the author had to self-publish it. Publishers should have been fighting over it: it is the gold standard for contemporary Austenesque fiction—and a delightful novel, even without the Austen hook.

It sets the familiar tale in the subculture of mystery-novel writers and publishers. I adored the view into this world as the heroine, Lizzie Mansfield, goes to book conventions, participates in a writers group, competes for writing awards, and struggles to compose her second novel. As the previously published author of two mysteries, Claire M. Johnson knows this world, and she portrays it believably. Almost all of the original characters appear in one form or another, their personalities intact; the changes in their relationships and circumstances are amply justified by the requirements of the plot. For instance, because Lizzie is a divorced mother of two in her forties, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet hardly need to be her parents; instead they have taken on the pseudo-parental role of her publishers. Darcy—here called William Pemberley, whyever not?—is the proprietor of another, and superior, publishing house, a role that gives him more power in her life than Lizzie would like.

The first-person voice of the protagonist-narrator and the voices of the other characters are vivid and natural. I loved the e-mail exchanges, and the blogs in which the main characters can hint at their motivations or accidentally reveal them. I adored the humor—especially Mac the stuffed dog, both his ridiculousness and the kindness with which his function is understood

     

 

Roux Morgue is the second in the Mary Ryan, Pastry Chef, series. Trying to put the events of the last few months behind her, she's landed a teaching job at her old alma mater. But she’s barely in the door when she realizes that the teaching staff are at loggerheads with each other. Adding to her dismay, ex-lover and Homicide Detective O’Connor has enrolled as a student, claiming to be on disability from the San Francisco Police Department.

Reviews

"Food Channel addicts will enjoy the inside details on cooling school politics, while fans of quirky mysteries will like the outrageous adult behavior on display." --Library Journal

"...highly amusing action in Johnson's superior second cosy to feature funky pastry chef Mary Ryan... This enjoyable romp should gain Johnson new fans." --Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Sexual tension, cooking tips, and a neatly package mystery. All in all, a tasty tale." --Kirkus Reviews

     

 

Beat Until Stiff debuts the protagonist Mary Ryan, a pastry chef at American Fare, San Francisco's hottest restaurant. At work very early one morning, she steps on a laundry bag stuffed with the dead body of one of her employees. The investigation soon exposes all the dirty secrets that the food business would like to keep secret: the philandering chefs, the silly whims of the dining public, the hiring of illegal aliens, and the subsistence-living pay scale. Events begin to spiral that, in time, take out the restaurant’s celebrity chef and force Mary to use her unique skills to uncover a poisonous scheme.

Reviews

"Mary Ryan, feisty pastry chef at American Fare, a trendy San Francisco restaurant, finds murder on the menu in Johnson's delicious debut, which mixes an unglamorized, behind-the-scenes view of the upscale restaurant trade with a plot replete with well-timed shocks... The restaurant business--its food, financing and philosophy--is here in all its complexity for discriminating mystery palates." --Publishers Weekly

"Claire M. Johnson's Beat Until Stiff deserves enthusiastic mention as a very special title which offers an unusually frank view of the cooking and restaurant scene in San Francisco. Herself a professional and experience pastry chef, Claire Johnson presents the reader with a lively style that mixes autobiography with culinary and social insights. Highly recommended!" --Midwest Book Review

"Willy-nilly, Johnson takes you there in a fast and furious place, often reminiscent of the theatrical ditto, complete with Hamelts and Greek choruses and magicians who don't get it right. not only is this a treat, I read it through twice to make sure it was as good as I thought." --The Courier-Gazette

 

PODCAST

I did my first podcast with Julie Cooper and Wendy Kendall, the two women who host the Kendall and Cooper Talk Mysteries podcast. If you want to hear me talk about writing, mysteries, and the state of publishing as I see it today, please check it out! I'm on YouTube!.

 

BIO STUFF

Claire M. Johnson graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in history. Upon applying to graduate school for a PhD in history, she received a letter congratulating her upon being accepted, and, by the way, academic positions were thin on the ground, as in none. Switching gears, she indulged in a lifelong passion for making and eating desserts. After completing the professional chef program at San Francisco's California Culinary Academy in 1983, she worked as a pastry chef for eight years during the height of the food revolution. The passion and frenzied pace characterizing the food scene in the 1980s are well documented in Ms. Johnson's first novel, Beat Until Stiff, for which she won the 1999 Domestic Writers Grant. This book was nominated for an Agatha for Best First Novel and was a Booksense pick. The second novel in this series, Roux Morgue, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

LINKS

Resolution (available in trade paperback and ebook formats)

Pen and Prejudice (available in trade paperback and ebook formats)

Roux Morgue (available in hard cover, trade paperback, audio, and ebook formats)

Beat Until Stiff (available in trade paperback, audio, and ebook formats)

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Poisoned Pen Press

Mystery Writers of America

Sisters in Crime Northern California Chapter

Independent American Booksellers Association

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