Wednesday, October 8, 2014

REVIEW/INTERVIEW: Lost Under a Ladder by Linda O. Johnston


Is it Luck? Or is it Destiny?

Rory Chasen never thought superstitions were real—until her beloved fiancé is killed after walking under a ladder. To find closure and the truth about superstitions, Rory takes her dog Pluckie to a town called Destiny, where superstitious beliefs are a way of life.

Rory’s visit to Destiny takes an unexpected turn when Pluckie saves Martha, the owner of the Lucky Dog Boutique. Martha then begs Rory to manage the shop for her. When Martha becomes the prime suspect in the local bookshop owner’s murder, Rory can’t believe that the sweet old woman would do it. Convinced the real killer is still roaming Destiny’s streets, Rory resolves to crack the case before Martha’s luck runs out.



A town called Destiny is someplace I'd probably visit, like Rory, if my fiance is killed shortly after walking under a ladder.  I'm a big fan of playing with words and having fun doing it - and it would seem that Ms. Johnston is the same way.  I love the store names:  Lucky Dog Boutique, Broken Mirror Bookstore. Ditto the street names:  Destiny Boulevard and Fate Street to name two.  Everyone in town gives at least lip service to the superstitions because, well, it's good for business.

But then the co-owner of the Broken Mirror, who has also written THE book on superstition, gets killed within 24 hours after publicly taunting believers.  Was it his fate, or was something more sinister at hand?

Originally, Rory had only intended to go and find out the truth about the ladder superstition.  But, little by little and day by day, she gets drawn further and further into the fabric of Destiny and its townfolk.

I also liked the growing relationship between Rory and the hunky police chief.  After all, she's just getting over the death of her fiance and does not want to jump into a relationship with someone else at the moment.  I'm glad Ms. Johnston treated that story line in a sensitive manner.  And it's a case of a couple steps closer and then a couple of steps back.  Those police types don't like 'amateur detectives' butting in ... but then neither to the murderers.

Nearly everyone in town was a potential suspect.  Attention swung one way and then another, with no one guessing correctly up until the very end.  A delightful read and a most comfortable cozy.



Linda O. Johnston’s first published fiction appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for Best First Mystery Short Story of the year.   Since then, Linda, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, has published more short stories, novellas, and 37 romance and mystery novels, including the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime, plus Harlequin Romantic Suspense as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries for Harlequin Nocturne.

Her latest cozy mystery series, the Superstition Mysteries from Midnight Ink, kicks off in October 2014 with LOST UNDER A LADDER.  Linda believes that reading the Superstition Mysteries will bring good luck!



1.  How many series have you written / are you writing?

At the moment, I'm writing four series: my new Superstition Mysteries which start this month with LOST UNDER A LADDER, for Midnight Ink.  I'm also writing another new series for Midnight Ink that will start next year: the Barkery and Biscuits Mysteries.

I'm also currently writing two mini-series for Harlequin, for two of their romance lines: the Alpha Force stories about a covert military unit of shapeshifters for Harlequin Nocturne, and a series about a non-witness protection program for Harlequin Romantic Suspense.

I've also written the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries and its spin-off series, the Pet Rescue Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime.

 2.  How do you keep them all straight?

It's not easy!  I do a lot of planning, then copy as much information as possible about characters, plots and locations into computer files that I refer to frequently.  I do sometimes come up with names in one series that are too close to names in another and have to change them.

 3.  Do you know how many books will be in your new 'Superstition' series?

There will be at least three, and my fingers are crossed that there'll be more!

 4.  Has having a background in law made navigating your literary contracts easier? 
Yes and no.  I understand what I'm signing, and sometimes it makes me cringe!  I sign things that I'd advise a client not to sign, but some provisions are nonnegotiable... and scary.

5.  What drew you to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed of dogs?

I saw my first Cavalier on the Underground during my first trip to London... and fell in love.  Maybe it was the soulful expression, or the cuteness of how she sat on her owner's lap, or the Blenheim (auburn and white) fur, one of the most popular colorations.  but I was hooked!  Cavaliers were very rare in the U.S. at the time, but I began my search for one as soon as I returned to the U.S.--and have been owned by at least one Cavalier ever since.

 6.  What's it like working on a blog with multiple writers?

I actually blog regularly on four blogs with other writers, but three of them are once monthly and the fourth, Killer Hobbies, is weekly.  It's also the one I've blogged on the longest.  I enjoy the interaction online with the other writers.  At Killer Hobbies, we usually comment on each other's blogs and provide encouragement to one another, as well as introducing ourselves to the readers of each other's work and sometimes promoting each another.  

I don't know all the writers on the other blogs but read their posts and sometimes comment and promote them, too.   Those other blogs are Killer Characters, where I post on the 18th of each month; A Slice of Orange, the blog of the Orange County Chapter of the Romance Writers of America, where I blog on the 6th of every month; and InkSpot, the blog of Midnight Ink authors, where I'm a newbie and blog on the first Monday of every month.

 7.  What is your favorite part of being a full-time writer?

Maybe I'm nuts, but I'm currently working on four of the series I described above concurrently.  I couldn't do that if I was still practicing law even part-time, as I did before I decided to become officially inactive.  I'm always creating characters and conflicts and murders and romance... Who wouldn't love that??!

 8.  Any downside?

Believe it or not, I miss being a lawyer, at least the way I used to practice law.  Of course, I was a transactional real estate attorney which meant I negotiated and wrote a lot of contracts.  And contracts are just another form of fiction!

 9.  Which writer from all of history (including our time) would you most like to meet?

I'm fortunate enough to belong to a lot of writers' organizations in the genres in which I write, plus I attend quite a few conferences, so I've actually met quite of few of the contemporary writers I wanted to meet.  In fact, Carolyn Hart and Dorothy Cannell even gave me blurbs for my first Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mystery.  I met David Rosenfelt at a book signing near Los Angeles, although he might not remember that.  I'd certainly love to meet Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt, though.

 10.  What do you like to do when you are not writing?

 Play with my dogs--Cavaliers, of course!  Even when I'm writing I obey their orders, of course.  I also enjoy spending time with my wonderful, patient, encouraging husband Fred. 


(Disclosure:  I received an e-copy of "Lost Under a Ladder" from the author and publisher via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours and NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased opinion.  Click the logo above to visit the official tour page.)

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