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Marlan Warren is a journalist, novelist, editor, playwright, screenwriter, blogger, website designer, and publicist. She is the author of the fictionalized memoir, Roadmaps for the Sexually Challenged: All’s Not Fair in Love or War and the AIDS memoir, Rowing on a Corner. She reviews for Midwest Book Review. Marlan is also a filmmaker.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

"Try not to think of corpses..." New Book Review: BUZZ KILL BY KATE THORNTON


“The next time the flowers nod in the summer breezes, and I see honeybees busily going about their business, I’ll try not to think of corpses, betrayals, bludgeoning, and death.” 

—BUZZ KILL, A Toni Carey Mystery 

If Killer Bees didn’t exist, mystery writers would have to invent them. Fortunately for Kate Thornton they do exist, so she grabs their scary potential and runs with it in the first book of her Toni Carey series, BUZZ KILL. 

Blessed with a spunky, horny heroine, this un-cozy mystery unfurls enough red herrings to keep readers guessing, exquisitely detailed moments of horror and revulsion, and plenty of wink-wink humor. Thornton gives us a world so real, it’s hard to believe that it’s fiction. 

Having received an urgent note from her Uncle Horace to visit him in the fictitious California burg of Loma Vista “on a matter of Great Importance,” Toni Carey arrives to find his house trashed; a weird pile of smokey ashes in the closet; and a strapping good-smelling small-town-detective type investigating the fact that her uncle was found alone in a coma.

A semi-retired “bug expert” professor who specializes in butterflies at the local college and tends his own beehives at home, Uncle Horace is an unlikely candidate for leaving himself vulnerable to anaphylactic shock. 

So what happened and who is responsible? 

When a man Toni never heard of turns up dead in her uncle’s shed—undeniably done in by bees—the story officially turns into a Murder Whodunit. Is it only one perp or more than one behind the coma and the death? Who can be trusted? Who should not be believed?

A seasoned magazine article writer, Toni is adept at research. As she cautiously investigates, she encounters enough suspects to remain suspicious of nearly everyone she encounters: Should she take at face value Uncle Horace’s well-preserved lady friend or his “beehive assistant” teenage neighbor boy with the weirdly nonverbal mother? And what about that cheeky, sexy receptionist at the university’s Biology Department? 

Stirred by the electric lust she feels at the touch of a handsome man’s compassionate hand or the sight of a holstered Barretta pressed up against his warm body or the sudden kiss in a biology laboratory from a biologist she just met, the too-long-celibate Toni struggles to sort the truth from illusion when it comes to her feelings vs. her “who’s who?” need for insight. 

Will she end up in bed with the soap-smelling detective or the lightly fragranced bee researcher? Or neither? Or both?  

Thornton’s witty writing keeps all these juggled balls aloft. Her skill with turns of phrases gives jolts of pleasure throughout: 

“After I finished throwing up in the bushes, I ran into the house and started to dial 911, then thought better of that. The guy in the shed wasn’t going anywhere and an ambulance would just be a formality.” 

Oh, and yes, there is a great deal of fascinating information about Africanized bees and bees in general for avid bee-lovers and the bee-curious. 

I recommend BUZZ KILL for anyone looking for a fun getaway from their boring life.


KATE THORNTON has been writing and editing short stories for years, and now has written both the TONI CAREY MYSTERY SERIES and the KITTY AND COCO MYSTERIES. Her first short story, "Just Like In The Movies", was published in David Firks' legendary BLUE MURDER and nominated for a Derringer award. With over 100 short stories in print, she is retired from the US Army, has been a contestant on Jeopardy!, once kissed French film director Francoise Truffaut, and currently lives with her husband, two dogs, and two cats in Tucson, AZ, where she is working on her next book.

Look for BUZZ KILL and MEDIUM DEAD (Books #1 & #2 in the Toni Carey Mysteries) and KITTY TAKES A CHANCE (Book #1 in the Kitty and Coco Mysteries.)

Check her website http://katethornton.net for new releases, upcoming book signings, panels, seminars and writing workshops.


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