Last week I blogged on what happens when an author stops writing a series that you love. Today I’m writing about what happens when an author stops writing a series that you love and then disappears. Yes, disappears! I’m not exaggerating. It’s a true story, and it happened to me.
Unlike most of my “keepers,” I’m a little fuzzy on how I first came across Dating Can be Murder by Jennifer Apodaca. If I’d hazard a guess, my Mom probably passed it on to me. I’m a voracious reader of romance—Regency, contemporary, urban fantasy, dystopian, young adult. Throw in a 7-foot flaxen-haired Viking and it’s the cherry on top of my sundae. My mother, on the other hand, is a voracious reader of mysteries—from Miss Marple to Miss Plum. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to name a cozy mystery series she hasn’t read. But we do share books across our genres—at least the good ones.
Looking down at the really bad cover of Dating Can be Murder—limp dead guy in a suit, splayed across a giant heart floating in midair with what looks to be a bullet hole through it—I’m pretty sure it came from my Mom. Call me superficial, but it’s just not the kind of cover that would’ve caught my interest. But I’m being lazy. Let me just pick up the phone and ask. Be right back.
Did you miss me? And yes, after much prompting, Mom recalled giving the book to me. “I thought you would like that one.” Interesting. It appears that Mom is not as enamored of the series as I am. Is that going to stop me from extolling the undeniable charms of the Samantha Shaw mysteries? Nope.
The book starts out in grand fashion. I call it breaking up with style. Our spunky heroine, Samantha Shaw, is in a pickle. Her husband Trent has been killed in an unfortunate peanut-related incident. After finding a stash of women’s underwear in his vintage Mustang, her mourning period is brief. So what’s a scorned woman to do? How about taking the life insurance money to buy breast implants and a dating service? Sounds like a plan. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans.
Pause. Actually I don’t know, so I’m going to Google it.
I’m back. Again. According to Wikipedia, the quote is “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley [go oft awry].” It’s from a Robert Burns’ poem entitled “To a Mouse.” Who knew?
Anyway, Samantha’s plans gang aft agley. In addition to being a serial cheater, her dead husband was also a liar, a thief, and a drug dealer. And now Samantha and her two young sons are being threatened by some really scary bad guys. Sam’s life is made even more complicated by two new men in her life—Gabe Pulizzi, an ex-cop who now runs his own security firm and Detective Morgan Rossi, who is looking into all the strange happenings that surround our heroine.
So why should you be interested in the trials and tribulations of Samantha Shaw? Here are three good reasons. First, while the story is fast-paced, the mystery is enjoyably on the light side—no coked-up drug dealers, decapitated bodies, or sexual deviants. Wait! There may be a mention of a vibrator. Or maybe that’s in the fourth book in the series: Batteries Required. Second, the book is damn funny. For example, Sam’s cheating-ex was a record-setting condom salesman. Another example, Sam reviews romances and erotica, awarding stars for extra “sizzle.” You get the picture. Third, Apodaca’s characters are likeable and well-rounded. You feel for Sam—literally. The sexual tension between Sam and Gabe actually elicited a physical reaction from me. I’m not ashamed to say I got a tad bit warm during their first sex scene. Bottom line: Apodaca and Sam (and, let’s be honest, Gabe) had me hooked. I eagerly consumed the next four books in the series—Dying to Meet You, Ninja Soccer Mom, Batteries Required, and Thrilled to Death—and looked forward to future stories and many more hours of entertainment.
Or maybe not.
When my internal alarm clock told me to start looking for a new Samantha Shaw mystery, I was in for a shock. I googled Jennifer Apodaca and someone named Jennifer Lyon popped up. In fact, Jennifer Apodaca had virtually disappeared. All that remained of my beloved author was a small tab on Jennifer Lyon’s website. Like Samantha Shaw, I had a mystery to solve. Unlike Samantha Shaw, it didn’t take me 300 pages do so.
So what exactly happened? Jennifer Apodaca had pulled a Phoenix—a mystery writer “died” and an urban fantasy author rose from the ashes. In the author’s own words: “She [Jennifer Lyons aka Jennifer Apodaca] unleashed her inner witch and created the Wing Slayer Hunter series about tortured alpha males and the very special witches who loved them.” Wow. I didn’t see that one coming.
So where does that leave me today? Jealously guarding my dog-eared copies of the five Samantha Shaw mysteries. They are not on loan—to anyone. And making room on my shelf for a new author. But I’ll be honest here. Jennifer Lyon is not Jennifer Apodaca. The oven still “sizzles,” but one important ingredient is missing from the recipe—humor. My advice: savor your books, because you never know when the menu is going to change.