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Marlan Warren is a free-lance publicist who promotes entertainers and book authors (Roadmap Communications and Book Publicity by Marlan, respectively). She is also a film maker (Roadmap Productions), Reiki Master/Teacher (Light Hands Reiki Studio and Institute), Screenwriter, Novelist, PhotoJournalist, Tai Chi practitioner. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW & AUTHOR INTERVIEW: "A MODEL MURDER" - CELIA CONRAD


Thank you, Midwest Book Review, for publishing my review of A Model Murder:      "Wow book review of Wow crime novel"


In law firms, nobody can hear you scream...

Title: A Model Murder (Book 1)              
Author: Celia Conrad
Series: Alicia Allen Investigates Trilogy
Published 2011 by Barcham Books
ISBN-13: 978-0954623326                      
ISBN-10: 0954623320
Author Web Site: Alicia Allen Investigates Web Site
Author Blog: http//celiaconrad.blogspot.com
Available on Amazon:
U.S. Amazon: A Model Murder   /   U.K. Amazon: A Model Murder

REVIEW 
He told me he was used to getting what he wanted...
--A Model Murder, Celia Conrad

What do law firms and men’s “hostess” clubs have in common? If your first thought is “alpha males,” you’re already on board with A Model Murder. Conrad draws disturbing, often painfully entertaining, parallels between these two worlds where Neanderthals still roam the Earth, and a resistant female might get a bop on the head or worse.

A Model Murder is a fast-paced suspense mystery, full of twists and turns, following in the tradition of Nicci French and Sue Grafton.

Alicia Allen is a London-based Anglo-Italian lawyer on the verge of her 30th birthday whose experience of Death has been limited to sorting estate issues...until her beautiful Australian neighbor and wannabe model, Tammy, turns up raped and murdered before she can collect her first paycheck from the job she wants to quit in a sleazy men’s club.

British author Conrad has painted a loving portrait of the multi-cultural melting pot that is London and her down-to-earth heroine who has no superpowers of intuition and deduction, but is quite simply a good neighbor who will stop at nothing until a wrong is made right.

Portia
Lack of police progress propels Alicia towards finding Tammy’s murderer herself. The Shakespearean character of Portia (Merchant of Venice) is mentioned, and indeed Alicia does resemble that legendary defense attorney. Her “quality of mercy is not strained” as she single-mindedly focuses on solving this horrible murder. Using her honed skills of observation and detail-awareness, she finds clues even in opera. Breaking and entering to gather evidence? No problem.
Alicia coincidentally finds herself in a life-threatening work situation from a mad-dog senior partner, the link between sociopaths who legally run law firms and take unfair advantage of women “underlings” and the sociopaths who run illegal prostitution rackets solidifies.

Of course the crazier and nastier the law firm environment, the more fun. Conrad also makes the fair point that women in both arenas can also harass their female coworkers. All the better to keep readers guessing whodunit!

Red herrings swim among Alicia’s true friends who are the mainstay of her life. Will that Robert Redford-type lawyer who wows the ladies at her office be The One or is he somehow responsible for Tammy’s untimely demise?

Will Alicia pick the true-blue “best friend” who shares her Italian heritage or the office lover-boy who makes her knees weak while he quotes Shakespeare? That Conrad keeps all these balls in the air until the story’s breathtaking and very scary conclusion is a testament to her marvelous instincts as a storyteller extraordinaire.


Women make this plot twirl on its axis; so there has to be food. I found myself wanting Pringles (Alicia's one addiction), pizza, salad nicoise, pasta primavera, and high tea with succulent scones throughout the adventure. Not necessarily in that order.

Full disclosure: I toiled in law firms for years as a secretary, and I had a friend who worked in a pole-dancing club in Los Angeles. So this harrowing, occasionally satirical, murder mystery hit a nerve and my funny bone at the same time. 

PS to American Readers: Keep your English to English Dictionary handy! Alicia eats chips from a tube and then rides on one...but I just have to love a language and a country where women can be "well upholstered.".

I am eagerly looking forward to reading the other two books in this Alicia Allen Investigates Trilogy: A Wilful Murder (Book 2) and Murder in Hand (Book 3).

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Marlan Warren's Review was originally published in her blog Dancing in the Experience Lane.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CELIA CONRAD

SUMMARY: Interview with “Tough little cookie” Celia Conrad on abused women in hostess clubs and law firms, and relaunch of “A Model Murder” via KDP free e-book (5/31-6/2/14)

"He told me he was used to getting what he wanted..."—A Model Murder

What do law firms and hostess clubs have in common? The answer lies at the heart of Celia Conrad’s A Model Murder,” a crime fiction novel featuring the murder of a young model moonlighting as a stripper and the harassed-at-work London woman lawyer who sets out to bring the murderer to justice. This thriller quietly appeared in 2011 before news events made its plot points seem positively prescient. Last April, a stripper was found murdered after work in Atlanta, Ga. Last year, a gender discrimination lawsuit against a prominent American law firm settled in favor of its women lawyers. In a recent phone interview with Los Angeles journalist Marlan Warren, the British author revealed the origins of A Model Murder (AMM) and why publisher Barcham Books decided to launch the e-book as a giveaway via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program May 31 through June 2.

MW: In AMM, the moonlighting model tells Alicia Allen about an aggressive customer: "He told me he was used to getting what he wanted..." Alicia also encounters this attitude with the boss at her law firm. How much of your own lawyer experiences found their way into Alicia's world?

CC:  AMM is autobiographical in parts, which probably makes this story even darker because it is real. The legal profession is still male dominated despite what we are told about more women qualifying or more women reaching top jobs. I think for a young woman within the law it can still be quite hard.


MW: What kind of research did you do?

CC: While I was doing a little modeling,  I met a model who worked in a club to supplement her income. To research, I talked with women at the clubs. They told me how they got treated depended on the "boss." They had to generate money for the club by being "nice," but the degree of how “nice” came from the top. Some bosses looked after their employees better than others. Some women felt pressured, and some did not.

MW: What’s your opinion of the recent lawsuits in the U.S. and U.K. that complain about gender discrimination in the workplace?

CC: I am sure there is still a lot of bullying. In terms of sexual harassment, the laws have tightened but I'm sure it still goes on and women are reluctant to speak out for fear of repercussions.

MW: Your heroine is a half-Anglo/half-Italian  lawyer living in London with a passion for justice and a chip that rhymes with “Singles.”  How much of yourself is in Alicia?

CC: Like me, she looks vulnerable, but she’s a tough little cookie. And I do love potato chips. We also share tenacity, passion and curiosity. I made Alicia half-Italian because I love Italy. I wanted her to be sharp-witted, warm-hearted and likeable with moral fiber, backbone and sincerity. She’s a private client lawyer as that’s the area I would have gone into if I hadn't done family law. I only wish I’d thought of her retorts when I was working within the law.

MW: What kind of feedback have you gotten from readers regarding the male characters?

CC: Some readers start out hating Ivano (an aggressive Italian character), but then he makes them cry. Alicia's Italian friend Cesare is seen as a "sweetie," and everyone enjoys the banter between Alicia and her coworker/love interest Alex.

MW: What were the circumstances surrounding the publication of AMM?

CC: I wrote AMM at the suggestion of my then-agent and mentor, Paul Marsh, who encouraged me to write a mystery based on my experiences as a lawyer; and I added my brief experiences as a model. Unfortunately Paul passed away before AMM was published. At the time of its release, my mother’s health was failing and I lost her last year. I was too immersed in personal turbulence to focus on promoting the Alicia Allen Investigates trilogy (AMM is Book 1). Hopefully the free Kindle e-book offer will attract a fresh crop of readers and stimulate interest. It will remain for sale in paperback 

MW: What is your writing process?

CC: I jot down notes in pencil and then plot the book out. Then I work the plot backwards, having decided on whodunit and the red-herrings. The actual writing took about 8 weeks. I edit as I read aloud: something Paul taught me to do.

MW: How can people find the paperback?

CC: It can be ordered through Amazon, Barcham Books and Alicia Allen Investigates websites. And it’s in libraries all over the U.K.

MW: Two books follow AMM in the series: “Wilful Murder” and “Murder in Hand.” The former takes readers to Australia and has a plot that turns on a string of murdered relatives and a multimillion dollar Will, and the latter takes your heroine into the depths of corruption in Sicily. Did Paul Marsh assist in the crafting of these books as well?

CC: Yes. Before he died, Paul had read both books and was really happy with them. He believed Alicia is a great character who deserved to find her audience. That endorsement has always pushed me on.

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Interview originally published in Marlan Warren's blogs: L.A. Now and Then and Dancing in the Experience Lane Blog, as well as PR.com where it was picked up by Broadway World Bookshelf and The BBC Record.

For more details on Conrad and the Trilogy, please visit the Author's Website and Blog. Discussion Guides for the AAI Trilogy are also posted on those sites for book club use.