The Madness of Mercury by Connie di Marco
Learn all about the series and Connie di Marco’s other projects. Plus, an adorable cat.
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The Madness of Mercury
San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti’s life is turned upside down when she becomes a target of the Reverend Roy of the Prophet’s Tabernacle. The Reverend, a recently-arrived cult preacher, is determined to drive sin from the city, but his gospel of love and compassion doesn’t extend to those he considers an “abomination unto the Lord.”
Julia’s outspoken advice in her newspaper column, AskZodia, has put her at the top of the Reverend’s list. While the powerful Mercury-ruled preacher woos local dignitaries, his Army of the Prophet will stop at nothing to silence not just Julia, but anyone who stands in his way.
Driven out of her apartment in the midst of a disastrous Mercury retrograde period, she takes shelter with a client who’s caring for two elderly aunts. One aunt appears stricken with dementia and the other has fallen under the spell of the Reverend Roy. To add to the confusion, a young man claiming to be a long-lost nephew arrives.
The longer he stays, the more dangerous things become.
One aunt slides deeper into psychosis while the other disappears. Is this young man truly a member of the family? Can astrology confirm that? Julia’s not sure, but one thing she does know is that Mercury wasn’t merely the messenger of the gods – he was a trickster and a liar as well.
Published by: Suspense Publishing
Publication Date: October 6, 2020
Number of Pages: 268
ISBN: 0578752654 (ISBN13: 9780578752655)
Series: Zodiac Mystery #1
To buy the book, click on any of the following links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
The Madness of Mercury Author Interview Connie di Marco
The Madness of the Mercury was born out of your fascination with astrology. What’s your sign?
Oh that’s a very personal question!!! (Only kidding!) I’m a Sagittarian, as is my protagonist Julia. Sagittarius is a fire sign and Sagittarians are generous, optimistic and outgoing. They’re always positive and looking to the future, willing to take risks and explore unknown territory.
Do you fit the characteristics regularly assigned to your sign?
I think I do. I can remember being very shy when I was a kid, but that’s something I’ve definitely grown out of. I’m maybe a little bit more introspective than most fire signs, but I do think I’m generous and optimistic (in fact, I’ve been described as a Pollyanna by people who know me) but that’s a good thing. Why be negative? Things will always eventually look up.
You grew up in New England and live in Los Angeles. What is your relationship with San Francisco, the place where The Madness of Mercury is set?
I lived in San Francisco for many years before I moved to Los Angeles. It was the right thing to do at the time, but I’ve always found myself missing that beautiful city.
Fortunately, it’s not far away and I usually go north at least a few times a year. A lot of my friends from those days now live in Los Angeles, but many old friends are still up north and it’s great to visit.
My favorite time of year to go is the summer, when LA temperatures can go over 100, while San Francisco is 50 degrees and foggy. I know the city very well and I try to keep up with current events there—building projects, crime, local politics, especially scandals.
You just never know when a story can be used in a murder mystery.
The Madness of Mercury is the first book in the Zodiac Mysteries, tell us about the rest of the series.
The next book to be released is All Signs Point to Murder. This book is actually drawn from a real crime that I happen to know of. When I learned what had been decided in that case, I found I had a very hard time believing the official version. So All Signs is my take on what might have happened.
Book 3 in the series is Tail of the Dragon. Julia is asked by her client and former boss to go undercover at his law firm to discover who is sending death threats to three of his attorneys. The only common denominator is a long-settled case, the Bank of San Francisco fire in which a death occurred. But before Julia can solve the mystery, two people are dead and her own life is in danger.
Enter a Wizard, Stage Left is a novella, to be released as an e-book. It’s set before the series begins and takes place at a theater production of an Agatha Christie play. In a way, it’s a nod to classic Golden Age mysteries. Many people wrote to me asking for more stories featuring Gloria, Julia’s grandmother, asking how Julia met her friends and how she first became interested in astrology.
Readers also wanted to know how Julia first found her cat Wizard. (By the way, Wizard is drawn from our earlier cat, a gorgeous 20 pound black cat.) It was a lot of fun to write Enter a Wizard and this novella covers all that ground.
Book 4 is Serpent’s Doom. Julia meets a young boy, Frankie Chang, at a psychic fair at the Mystic Eye bookshop. When Julia is finally able to get through Frankie’s defenses, to open up and tell her his concerns, she learns that Frankie’s terrified because his mother is missing and his father won’t go to the police.
In an effort to help Frankie, Julia uncovers a sinister conspiracy with far-reaching consequences.
You also write under the name Connie Archer. Tell us about that “author” and the Soup Lover’s Mysteries.
The Soup Lovers’ Mysteries are very dear to my heart and were actually my first published books. I was offered a contract to write a culinary cozy series as Connie Archer. This offer took me completely by surprise because at the time I was hoping my agent would be able to sell the Zodiac Mysteries.
This three-book deal turned into five mysteries set in a soup shop in the fictional village of Snowflake, Vermont—A Spoonful of Murder, A Broth of Betrayal, A Roux of Revenge, Ladle to the Grave and A Clue in the Stew. Lucky Jamieson and her grandfather Jack run the By the Spoonful Soup Shop and Lucky is instrumental in solving local murders.
I loved creating all the characters in the village and highlighting different characters in each mystery.
In A Spoonful of Murder, a winter tourist is found frozen to death behind the soup shop. In A Broth of Betrayal, an old crime casts a long shadow on the living. In A Roux of Revenge, a young girl’s life is put in jeopardy when a traveler is found dead on the side of the road. In Ladle to the Grave, a poisoning at a pagan ritual in the woods is only the beginning of the danger. And in A Clue in the Stew, a famous mystery writer comes to the village but her plots soon play out in real murder.
As Connie Archer, some of your recipes appear in cookbooks. What do you love about cooking?
In truth, I think I’m just an ‘okay’ cook. Not spectacular. I’ve cooked for a family most of my life and have lots of go-to recipes. Once in a while I’ll experiment with something new. The one thing I do love to make is soup. I used to think soup making was the most difficult and exotic thing to do. When I finally discovered that it basically involves throwing everything into a pot and letting it simmer, it was a total revelation.
I absolutely love to make soups in the cold weather—or what passes for cold in Los Angeles. And what I most love about soup making is that you can grab a leftover sausage or a few meatballs, chop up some vegetables, especially ones that are getting just a little limp, and throw them in a pot with maybe a little rice or potato, some soup stock or bouillon and you have a meal.
And every soup is always a little different. No two ever come out the same way. The hardest part of adding recipes to the books was having to re-do everything and write down exactly what and how much of something was needed. When you’ve been cooking for years, you really don’t think about those details.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I’m just finishing Book 5. Julia has grieved over the loss of her fiancé in a hit and run accident. The police were never able to solve the crime, and Julia has never had any answers, nor can she put the mystery to rest. In Book 5 (no title yet) she discovers the truth. I’ve been making notes for a plot for Book 6, and plan to get started on that as soon as Book 5 is final.
Final words of wisdom for aspiring writers:
Just keep writing, don’t give up and don’t think there’s any difference between you and some multi-published writer. Do the work, as boring as it can sometimes be, and get honest critiques from a writing group or a good editor.
I love what one writer said in an interview. She said, her rule is ABCD—Apply Butt to Chair Daily. But most of all, read and study your favorite authors until you can see the machinery turning behind the story. That’s the best way to learn.
Pet Corner—Tell us about Basil!
Oh, I’d be happy to provide some photos of Basil (pronounced Bazell, like an English gentleman). He was quite a character. He’s gone now and we really miss him terribly. My daughter rescued him from an alleyway downtown where he had been living in fear of the city garbage trucks. He never quite got over that fear on garbage day even when he was safe at home.
Basil talked all the time and my husband was his favorite person to talk to. They would have long exchanges in cat language and English. No idea what Basil was saying but whatever it was, it was pretty important to him.
At first, he was nocturnal, he wanted to sleep all day and roam around the neighborhood at night. If we didn’t let him out at night, he’d howl, literally howl at the moon. He also thought he was a lot tougher than he was.
One day he had a skirmish with a raccoon and needed surgery and a lampshade during recovery. Another time he was late coming home and I was worried. He finally showed up with blood covering his white ruff. Another late night trip to the emergency hospital, a body shave because the vet couldn’t figure out where the blood was coming from and another hospital stay.
That’s when I broke down and bought pet insurance and that’s when he finally calmed down and stayed close to home.
When he became very ill and was at the end, my daughter arranged for a visit from a group called Gifts of Peace. Basil lay on his favorite crocheted blanket while the whole family gathered around to pet him and say goodbye. He knew what was happening and I believe, wanted to be released. Basil was very loved and I’m quite sure he continued to visit with us for a long time.
What an amazing cat. Thank you for sharing about your beloved Basil and The Madness of Mercury.
Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. The Madness of Mercury, the first book in the series will be re-released in October 2020.
Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. You can find her excerpts and recipes in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.
Learn more about Connie di Marco by clicking her name, photo, or any of the following links: Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!
Excerpt from The Madness of Mercury
“Thank God you’re there.” Gale sounded very shaky.
“I’m at the Mystic Eye. Something very strange just happened. I heard a knock at the back door. I thought it might be you.”
“Are you alone?”
“Yes. I closed up and sent Cheryl home. When I opened the door . . . oh God, Julia. Someone left a dead cat on the doorstep.”
I cringed. “I’ll be right there.”
“I’m sorry. You don’t need to come. I wrapped it up and put it in plastic in the dumpster. It looked like its neck had been broken.”
“Don’t argue. I’ll be there in twenty minutes. Less than that.”
I drove the length of California Street as fast as I could, slowing at each red light. Once I was sure no other cars were crossing I ran through several intersections. When I reached the Eye the shop was closed but the display lights were on in the front windows. I pulled down the alleyway and parked next to Gale’s car. I tapped on the door. “Gale, it’s me.” She opened the door immediately. The storeroom was dark. A stack of empty boxes and packing materials stood against the wall. Inside, the only light was a small desk lamp in the office.
Gale is tall and self-assured with a regal bearing. Tonight she was completely shaken. She hugged her arms, more from fright than from cold. “I feel bad now that I’ve called you. I was just so freaked out. I recognized the cat, it was the little gray one that hangs out behind the apartment building next door. I think it’s a stray. Everyone around here feeds it, even the restaurant people, and it’s such a friendly little thing. Some sick bastard probably gave it some food and then snapped its neck. God, I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Shouldn’t you call the cops?”
“And tell them what? I found a dead cat? Please. Like they’d listen. Even if they thought someone had killed it, what could they do?”
“It shows a pattern of harassment. Might be worth making a report.”
She sighed. “Yeah. You’re probably right. I just wasn’t thinking straight. I was so upset.” She collapsed in the chair behind her desk.
I shrugged out of my coat. “Why are you here so late?”
“We just got a huge shipment of books and supplies in. Cheryl’s been working late every night so I sent her home. I had just finished stacking the boxes in the storeroom.” Gale shivered involuntarily. “Look, let’s get out of here. Have you eaten? Why don’t we go up the block and grab some food? Actually a drink sounds even better.”
“Get your coat. We can leave the cars here and walk. I’ll just get my purse.”
I headed to the front door and checked that the locks were all in place. The drapes separating the display windows from the shop were drawn for privacy. Gale left the desk lamp on in the office and walked out to the front counter. As she reached under the counter for her purse, we heard glass breaking. Then I saw a flash of flame through the doorway to the back storeroom. I screamed. The empty boxes and packing materials had caught fire in an explosive flash. The smoke alarm started to ring, filling the shop with earsplitting sound. Using my coat like a blanket, I dropped it over the center of the flaming pile. It wasn’t going to be enough, but I had to do something before the entire storeroom went up, if not the building.
Excerpt from The Madness of Mercury by Connie di Marco. Copyright 2020 by Connie di Marco. Reproduced with permission from Connie di Marco. All rights reserved.
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