Monday, September 22, 2014

BOOK REVIEW/INTERVIEW- And All That Madness by Joan Merrill


AND ALL THAT MADNESS is a Casey McKie mystery. When the New York Jazz Society acquires a fifty-year old letter from Georgia Valentine, questions arise over the legendary vocalist’s death. Did she give herself a fatal dose of heroin, as the original investigators ruled, or did someone kill her? And if it was murder, what was the motive?

Casey moves her operation from San Francisco to New York to investigate the cold case, questioning Georgia’s musician friends, her widower, a drug dealer, a Broadway actress, a mafia boss and the authorities who declared the death a suicide. This quest takes Casey to New York’s most venerable jazz clubs, a Harlem nursing home, a mob-owned Italian restaurant, a lesbian bar and One Police Plaza, home of the NYPD.

She joins forces with an attractive detective from the Organized Crime unit, and, as the case progresses, so does their relationship. With no shortage of suspects, Casey ultimately uncovers evidence revealing a surprising killer. Author Joan Merrill has produced yet another captivating mystery as part of her on-going detective series featuring SF detective Casey McKie.



I was a little surprised by the cover.  Most book covers these days are a little more ... showy, maybe?  But seeing as it is the fourth of five Casey McKie mysteries, it could be a choice for the series.   And that is the only question I had about the book.  (OK, maybe not the only question ... there is a review down there. VVVVV)

Other than that, there is no question about this book.  It's good.  It makes me want to put the rest of the series on my TBR list.  Ms. Merrill's knowledge of the ins and outs of the jazz world shine through in the writing.  The references, the feel of the jazz clubs in New York, even the atmosphere in the Jazz Society's archives ... it was like I was there, following the clues, snapping my fingers, smelling the danger.

Casey is a great main character.  She is loyal, intensely dedicated and heaven help you if you cross her, it's all over but the mug shots and the fingerprints.  She's even got a local detective watching her back ... et al.

We shouldn't really be surprised that the spirit and the words of story flow like a smooth tune.  Ms. Merrill knows her jazz.  This book is engaging.  I'd even travel to a big city to be able to listen to some jazz now.  And that is nearly a miracle.  I'd certainly travel to a big city to buy a print copy of And All that Motive (releasing 2014), so long as there was a good jazz venue.  I can highly recommend this book to you.



Joan Merrill has written five Casey McKie mysteries, all taking place in the world of jazz:And All That Murder (2009), And All That Sea (2010), And All That Stalking (2011). And All That Madness (2012), And All That Motive(2014).

All books (except Motive, which will be published in early fall), are available at and Kindle. And All That Madness is available as an audio book, narrated by long-time KCSM radio host, Alisa Clancy. To download, go to or or for the CD version, go to An audio book of And All That Stalking is under production.

Joan Merrill has worked in the jazz field for over twenty years, producing fourteen shows for NPR’s Jazz Profiles and four shows for the Smithsonian/PRI series Jazz Singers. She’s represented various jazz singers; produced the video documentary “Saying It with Jazz” featuring Carmen McRae and others; and produced three CDs under her own label. She also created and curates the website:

Merrill is currently producing a musical revue tribute to Doris Day, entitled “Que Sera! Celebrating Doris Day” with Kristi King. See Paperback versions of the Casey McKie mysteries may be purchased at reduced rates from the website:

Joan on Twitter:



1. Are the stories in the Casey McKie mysteries entirely fiction, or have some been gleaned from real events?

In AND ALL THAT MADNESS, I have cited several true events from the days when jazz artists were harassed by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. When presenting an historical event, I use real
names, dates and places and adhere to the facts. Other events have their basis in history but have been adapted to the story. In these cases, I use different names. AND ALL THAT MADNESS has a great deal of history. In AND ALLTHAT SEA, the references to the black market in Saigon during the Vietnam War are also based on fact.

2. How did you decide on a Jazz music atmosphere for your books?

I adhered to the principle “Write what you know.” I worked for many years in the jazz business, as a producer and artist representative. (In fact, I currently produce a musical revue, a tribute to Doris Day, not exactly jazz, but close.) I think people like to learn something from reading and I thought jazz would be an interesting milieu for them to explore.

3. What has happened in the story up until the starting point of "And All That Madness"?

Nothing that has any relevance to the story. All is explained in the first chapter.

4. Which character from your books would you most like to be able to invite over for supper? 

Well, having my characters to dinner would be a strange experience.  I would have to create their dialogue and manage their movements.  It would be like a ventriloquist sitting down to dinner with his puppets. Might be fun.

5. Which writers have inspired you?

I wouldn’t use the word “inspire,’ but I am influenced by Sue Grafton mainly and like the mysteries of Donna Leon, Martha Grimes, Elizabeth George, PD James, Ruth Rendell, and others.

6. Do you set an atmosphere for yourself while writing? (Location, lighting, music, food & drink, etc) 

I go to Starbucks with my laptop, get a large mocha and sit in one of their comfy chairs and work for two hours. Every day.

7. What part of the writing process do you most enjoy? Least? 

I like planning the main plot, researching and writing. Editing I like but I must admit to disliking proof-reading because I don’t do it well. I may read a manuscript several times and still miss minor typos. Lots of them, as it turns out. And I don’t much like marketing and promotion. I just like creating the characters and stories.

8. Where is one place in the world you would like to visit that you have not as of yet? 

Maybe Alaska on a cruise, the San Juan Islands by ferry and the Canadian west by train. Notice I chose places where I wouldn’t have to fly. My last major trip was to Italy, two of the most beautiful
places in the world, Venice and Lake Como, but it put me off airline travel. Permanently.

9. What do you hope your readers get from your books? 

Aha, good question. I hope they are able to lose themselves in the story and are intrigued enough to go to the end. And the real payoff is if they are surprised by the outcome.

10. Any advice for young folks interested in writing? 

Yes, don’t wait for someone to give you permission. Just do it. And if you think you need it, take a class, not in ”creative” writing, but in fiction writing techniques. Just to get you started.


(Disclosure:  I received a copy of "All That Madness" from the author and publisher via Virtual Author Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.)

This is one of four reviews I have going today.  Here are links to the others:

The last will be added later today.


  1. I thought the cover was stark too, although the books sounds good.

  2. Thanks for taking part in the tour and hosting Joan. I'm so glad you enjoyed 'And All That Madness' so much!