Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mystery Author of the Month: Helen Haught Fanick

Helen Haught Fanick
Helen Haught Fanick grew up in West Virginia and now lives in Texas, and both states provide settings for her novels. Her work includes cozy mysteries, suspense novels, a World War II espionage novel, and short stories, all available as e-books. The novels are also available in paperback.

A short story impressed Helen’s fifth grade teacher, and she’s been writing ever since. She’s won several local and state awards and two national awards in the Writer’s Digest Competition. Moon Signs, Book I of the Moon Mystery Series, was a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. Helen is a graduate of UTSA and lives in San Antonio with her husband.

I’m thrilled to have Helen with us today. I've read the first four books in her Moon Mystery series and I'm currently reading her fifth novel, Evil Under the Moon, which was just released. Here are my questions for Helen and her responses.
Patricia: Helen, when did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
Helen: My mother used to peck out her children’s stories on an old Oliver typewriter. I can remember being a toddler and playing on the floor beside her rickety typewriter table. It wasn’t so much a matter of what I wanted to be—I knew from those days on that I’d be a writer.
Patricia: If, for some reason, you couldn’t be a writer, what profession would you choose?
Helen: I’d be a photographer. Some of my book covers feature my photos.
Patricia: Well, you're obviously a talented photographer too. Your covers are fantastic! But, I have one more question. Do you have a bucket list, things you still want to do and/or places you want to visit?
Helen: I’d like to visit many places—the cities of Latin America, repeat visits to London and Paris, and I’d love to see Rome and a lot more of Italy. Actually, there are few places in the world that I wouldn’t want to visit.

The Moon Mystery Series:

Retirement is a time for knitting, gardening, and an occasional quiet lunch with friends, according to Kathleen Williamson.  Her sister Andrea has an altogether different point of view.  When the sisters go to the Canaan Valley to search for paintings mentioned in a document found in an old hotel once owned by their grandparents—paintings that might be Monets—Andrea immediately becomes involved in tracking down a murderer.  Kathleen would much rather be looking for the paintings, but she goes along with Andrea, since the victim was their hotel-keeper, murdered just down the hall from their room. The question is: Does the murder have something to do with the elusive paintings?

There are many clues and many suspects, including hotel staff, valley residents, and the mysterious foreigners who come from the Eastern Seaboard for skiing.  There are also many types of danger—icy roads, sub-zero temperatures, and a killer who doesn’t care how many people die in the attempt to make sure the right ones do.

   Maggie Flynn’s simple country wedding in West Virginia’s enchanting Canaan Valley is everything her aunts hoped for, and Andrea Flynn and Kathleen Williamson are looking forward to a joyful weekend celebration. Murder is the last thing on anyone’s mind, but when one guest has multiple enemies present, it becomes a reality. Poison in a late-night cup of tea proves fatal, and it’s obvious that plenty of family members and their friends have reason to want the victim dead.

   When a second murder occurs, members of the wedding party become even more certain that a killer is stalking the halls of the Alpenhof Hotel where they’re staying. Andrea and Kathleen join forces with Sheriff Ward Sterling to figure out who’s killing the guests in this quiet mountain resort. And there are clues—or are they just red herrings? A book of poetry, a flower garden, and artificial fingernails are among the discoveries the sisters discuss with the sheriff.

   They’re hoping the investigation won’t put their lives in danger, but security at the hotel is lax and door locks are flimsy. If the sisters can dig up enough clues, maybe they can solve the puzzle before the killer takes aim at them. However, at bedtime they’re bracing their door with the back of a chair, just in case.
The wealthiest family in the Canaan Valley has several problems, which its members handle using discretion—or maybe secrecy is a better word.  But when one of their members is murdered, their secrets are revealed as sisters Andrea and Kathleen help Sheriff Ward Sterling investigate the murder.
The sisters feel it’s especially important to figure out who the murderer is, since their friend, Deputy Willard Hill, is the prime suspect. They know Willard couldn’t possibly be guilty, but finding out who is turns out to be difficult. Several people will profit from the death, and there are a few more who had reasons to dislike the deceased.
In spite of a serious threat from the murderer, Andrea and Kathleen persist, hunting for hidden diaries, reviewing security camera records, and interviewing members of the family.  Their friend Willard is scheduled to marry one of the daughters of this wealthy family, but the wedding has been postponed until the murder is solved. The sisters want Willard to be cleared so the wedding can proceed as planned. More important, they must solve the case before the killer silences them.

Cora Taylor disappeared 54 years ago, and no trace of her was ever found. Now her sister has enlisted the help of Andrea Flynn and Kathleen Williamson in finding out what happened to Cora. The two are known for their ability to solve cases that are puzzling the police, and Mary Taylor is confident they can uncover Cora’s fate.
Andrea and Kathleen are doubtful they can find the answer Mary is looking for, but they decide to try. They start researching, and the case becomes more complicated when someone who was close to Cora, a likely suspect in her disappearance, is murdered.
The more the sister sleuths investigate, the more complex the situation becomes. How did expensive jewelry end up in Cora’s possession? Who knew moonflowers were poisonous and stole them from Andrea’s deck? Was the Mafia involved somehow, and what about the accusations against a jealous wife?  And when a second suspect is murdered, are the sisters and Mary in danger, too?
Lea Logan was a floozy, according to her mother. Andrea Flynn and Kathleen Williamson are volunteers with the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office who are looking into Lea’s murder, and they must consider her mother’s assessment when trying to solve the case. Was Lea the mistress of a man who’s influential not only at the Martindale Country Club but in the town as well, or was something darker going on?
The murder happened nearly five years ago, and the sisters find they must jog memories and scramble for clues in a case that has gone cold. When they discover the body of another victim who’s connected to Lea, complications multiply.
The second body isn’t the only complication, however. A locked safe that can’t be opened and password-protected computer files muddle Andrea and Kathleen’s efforts, but they must persist in solving these problems. And when they do, it’ll be difficult to survive what follows.

Helen is offering a copy of "Moon Signs" to one lucky person who leaves a comment.